By Sarah Atherton

MP for Wrexham

This week has been dominated by defence issues, and as such it was my pleasure to be able to visit Poland and Germany this week with the House of Commons Defence Select Committee. The world is gripped by the situation in Ukraine, and it was important for the Defence Committee to visit to understand the situation in neighbouring countries, and to meet with our committee counterparts to hear from them about how the UK Government can help.

On Monday we flew to Berlin where I met with the German Secretary of State for Defence where we exchanged views on the terrible and very worrying situation in Ukraine and discussed the rapid increase in Defence spending in Germany. In addition to military discussions, there was a strong humanitarian reason for our visit to Poland and Germany and whilst in Berlin, I visited the train station to meet the fantastic volunteers who are supporting refugees that are fleeing war torn Ukraine.

From Germany, we travelled to Poland where I met with the Polish Defence Committee and Ministers to discuss the military presence in Ukraine, the humanitarian crisis, and the role of the British troops in Poland and NATO.

Of course, the help provided to Ukrainian refugees is still ongoing and whilst we were away, the Welsh Government detailed its plans to act as a super-sponsor in the UK Government’s Homes for Ukraine Scheme, announced earlier this month. This means that the visa application process is made easier for those without UK or Welsh family ties.

To clarify, people from Ukraine have the choice of whether they want to be sponsored by the Welsh Government. Once a visa is granted, individuals will be contacted directly by the Welsh Government’s contact centre to confirm arrangements upon their arrival. In preparation for the welcome of Ukrainian refugees, hubs have been set up at multiple points of entry across Wales, including Wrexham Railway Station.

Further information on support for arrivals, guidance and more can be found on the Welsh Government’s dedicated website: Ukraine: support for people affected | GOV.WALES

In other defence news, I am eager to update Wrexham residents on the positive response from the Ministry of Defence to the inquiry I chaired last year, “Protecting those who Protect us: Women in the Armed Forces from Recruitment to Civilian Life”. Work continues to make the British Military the best in world for a woman to serve, and I am pleased that the MOD are working to fulfil many of the recommendations we made in the report.

Our report found that often female kit is ill-fitting, made for men and not for the female form. We heard examples of women being compromised on operations due to body armour riding up when in a crouched firing position, and oversized helmets covering their eyes. Last week, in response to one of the recommendations in the report, Veterans Minister, Leo Docherty, announced improved female body armour and combat clothing.

In addition, I am pleased to share that as part of the Ministry of Defence’s commitment to crack down on unacceptable behaviours and sexual offences, a new Tri-Service Zero Tolerance Policy has been established, announced last week. In practice, this means when someone is found guilty of a sexual offence, they will be immediately discharged from the military.

This is a huge step forward in Defence and I am thrilled that the MOD are continuing to enact the recommendations from my report.

As always, if you are resident in Wrexham and need my assistance with any local or national issue, please make contact with me by emailing