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Covid-19 Update - Statement

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 3:28 pm on 17th March 2020.

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Photo of Lord Campbell of Pittenweem Lord Campbell of Pittenweem Liberal Democrat Lords Spokesperson (Defence) 3:28 pm, 17th March 2020

My Lords, I also thank the Minister for repeating the Statement and associate myself and my noble friends with the expressions of appreciation of the efforts of those in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and other government departments. What is contained in the Statement is generally acceptable. It may seem draconian to advise against travel globally, but in the febrile atmosphere of many countries, restrictions will often be placed without warning. I have no doubt that the repatriations to which the Minister referred were most welcome. It shows the benefit of co-operation that this was able to be done by the relevant authorities in Tenerife and Cuba.

One matter that sticks out in the Statement is the observation that the ultimate responsibility for these matters rests with foreign Governments. What if such Governments have neither the inclination, capacity nor resources to assist British citizens? Would that be regarded as exceptional and therefore justifying government repatriation? Similarly, what if the considerable efforts of Foreign Office officials are unsuccessful? Would that count as exceptional circumstances, or would we leave our citizens—forgive the slang—“twisting in the wind”?