HC Deb 20 June 1955 vol 542 cc1007-8
8. Mr. Kirk

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he will make a statement concerning the committal to prison of Mr. Ronald Cook, British Consul at Norfolk, Virginia, by the United States Federal District Judge.

Mr. Turton

Mr. Cook, Her Majesty's Consul at Norfolk, Virginia, was committed for contempt of court on refusing to take the oath as a witness during the hearing of an action relating to a claim for damages by a Pakistani merchant seaman formerly serving on s.s. "Etivebank" against the shipowners. Later the same day Mr. Cook was released on bail.

It is the established policy of Her Majesty's Government that consular officers should not be authorised to give evidence either as expert witnesses or in relation to official matters, and Mr. Cook was accordingly instructed not to testify. Article 10 (4) of the Consular Convention between the United Kingdom and the United States of America specifically releases consular officers from the obligation to give evidence in such circumstances. A strong protest was made by Her Majesty's Ambassador in Washington to the State Department on 9th June. A reply is awaited.

Mr. Kirk

Cannot my hon. Friend ask the United States Government to speed up their answer in view of the fact that this matter has been hanging on for two weeks?

Mr. Turton

Perhaps my hon. Friend did not hear my reply. I said that a strong protest was made on 9th June, so that there has not been a two weeks' delay. I think we had better wait until we get a reply from America.