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MV Seaman Guard Ohio

Volume 596: debated on Tuesday 9 June 2015

9. What recent discussions he has had with his Indian counterpart on the continued detention of crew members of MV Seaman Guard Ohio in that country. (900183)

I can only imagine how difficult the situation continues to be for the men and their families, and I share their frustration. We have repeatedly raised this case with the Indian Government at the highest levels, including with Prime Minister Modi. The case is now before the Supreme Court bench in New Delhi, and we expect the response in July.

There has been meeting after meeting and discussion after discussion with the Government and authorities in India, yet my constituent Nick Dunn and four other former British soldiers are still being detained in India. They are innocent people. What more can the Minister and the Government do to ensure that they are returned to the UK as soon as practicably possible? Can he give the families a glimmer of hope, for goodness’ sake?

The hon. Gentleman is right to continue to campaign for his constituents. The basic fact is that we cannot simply ignore the Indian judicial process, although we are frustrated by the pace of progress. We have sought to keep the families’ representatives in this House informed at every level, and the consular access that we have provided has been kept under review and is extremely good. I say to the hon. Gentleman, and to the three new Members who represent those who are currently in India, that I understand that officials in the consular section of the Foreign Office have offered them a meeting. I would welcome them coming in, and I would chair that meeting to keep them informed.

We should acknowledge that the Indian navy has been an excellent partner in the fight against piracy off the Somali coast and in the wider Indian ocean. However, as the case highlighted by my hon. Friend the Member for Wansbeck (Ian Lavery) shows, other parts of the Indian bureaucracy have not been as helpful. Frankly, do we not need the Foreign Secretary and the Prime Minister to get off their backsides and strongly press the Indian Government to set these men free to get back to their long-suffering families, back to work and back to normal life?

The right hon. Gentleman lets himself down by the content and tone of his question, and I am not sure what relevance the Indian navy has to this case. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister raised the issue with Prime Minister Modi in November last year, as did my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary when he met his counterpart in March. Perhaps when the right hon. Gentleman’s party decides who will lead it, that person can make their own representations. We look forward to that day.