HC Deb 26 April 1966 vol 727 cc525-6
32. Sir Ian Orr-Ewing

asked the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations whether he will make representations to the Sierra Leone Government concerning the outstanding claim for damages to a fiat in Edgware which was vacated by one of their diplomatic staff two years ago.

The Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations (Mr. Arthur Bottomley)

The Acting High Commissioner of Sierra Leone has been in correspondence with my Department about this matter and has also called to discuss it. The difficulty appears to be that the High Commission agreed to an original assessment of dilapidations at £60 18s. but could not accept a subsequent further bill for £324. A proposal for the appointment of an independent expert to assess the damage has apparently not been accepted, but I do not despair of the parties being able to reach agreement on the amount to be paid.

Sir Ian Orr-Ewing

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that I should not have put the Question on the Order Paper if it had not been that two years have already elapsed while the claim has been under consideration? The Minister of State, Commonwealth Relations Office, wrote more than six months ago to the High Commissioner suggesting that an independent surveyor should be appointed, and the High Commissioner has been pleading diplomatic immunity and diplomatic privilege. It is wrong that constituents should be deprived of a judgment and an assessment for such a long period and that the matter should be cloaked by diplomatic immunity. Will the right hon. Gentleman press the High Commissioner to come to an ordinary understanding to appoint an independent surveyor so that he can get on with the job?

Mr. Bottomley

The hon. Gentleman will be aware that he has had the fullest sympathy from my Department. A new High Commissioner is arriving from Sierra Leone, and we will do our best to bring the matter to his attention.

Sir Ian Orr-Ewing

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. If there is not an early resolving of the difficulty, I beg to give notice that I shall raise the matter on the Adjournment.

Mr. Speaker

Notice should be given in the conventional way.

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