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Covid-19 Update - Statement

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 3:42 pm on 17th March 2020.

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Photo of Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Minister of State 3:42 pm, 17th March 2020

On her first point, as I am the Minister responsible for our bilateral relations with India, perhaps the noble Baroness would share that information with me and I will take it up with the Indian high commission. From talking to the Indian authorities, my understanding is that the restrictions apply to foreign nationals and those who hold passports with overseas Indian status but that Indian nationals could return if they chose to. However, if a particular issue has arisen, particularly with a student studying here, my understanding is that they should continue with their study. Coming back to the point raised earlier by my noble friend Lady Verma, providing that there is no reason for them to be unable to travel, and if flights continue—as they currently are—they should be able to return to India, in this case, or any other country as would be fit because, ultimately, nationals should not be stopped from entering their countries.

I say that, but 24 hours in this crisis is a long time, and I am minded to add the caveat that things are changing drastically. I do not envisage flights stopping and, as I said in response to a previous question by the noble Lord, Lord Collins, we are imploring commercial operators to continue to operate their flights, but as commercial decisions are taken about flights—understandably, they seek not to fly empty planes—an added challenge will be imposed on us globally to face up to. However, as I said, I am happy to look into the specific issue that the noble Baroness raised.