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Cruises: Covid-19 Travel Advice

Volume 693: debated on Thursday 29 April 2021

What discussions he has had with the (a) Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs and (b) devolved Administrations on the global travel taskforce and restarting cruises as covid-19 restrictions are eased. (914906)

What recent discussions he has had with (a) the Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs and (b) representatives of the cruise industry on amending the covid-19 travel advice on cruises. (914918)

The Department for Transport engages regularly with the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office, the devolved Administrations and the cruise industry on the global travel taskforce and cruise restart. Travel advice is the responsibility of the FCDO.

My constituency of Inverclyde hosts over 80 visits from international cruise ships each year. They make a valued contribution to the local economy and, when the time is right, we look forward to welcoming them back. However, with health to the fore, can the Minister tell me how the travel regime operates under the traffic light system with countries that have emerging variants of concern, or a prevalent spread of variants, and in what ways will the Government seek to react in good time to prevent transmission?

The hon. Member is right to draw attention to the huge economic importance of the cruise industry to constituencies such as Inverclyde. My Department continues to work closely with the FCDO and with the Department of Health and Social Care. A covid-19 framework drawn up by the cruise industry informs health protocols on board those ships. That has been recognised as good practice by the UN’s International Maritime Organisation. We will see a safe restart of international cruises in accordance with those protocols.

The cruise industry is a significant employer in the Southampton area, but British travellers are still advised by the FCDO against cruising, even as advice on flying is set to be relaxed along with eased restrictions. Approval has been given for domestic cruising, but please can my hon. Friend work with colleagues across Government to make sure that international travel advice for cruising is aligned with that for aviation?

My right hon. Friend is quite right. A home port call is estimated to generate approximately £2.95 million in today’s money, which underlines the critical importance of cruises for employment in Southampton and other ports. The restart of domestic cruises has indeed been confirmed, and the global travel taskforce advises that international cruises will restart alongside the wider restart in international travel. I am committed to working with colleagues at the FCDO and across Government to see a safe restart of international cruises as soon as possible, in line with the GTT.