HC Deb 11 May 1983 vol 42 c777
13. Mr. Cryer

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he is satisfied that sufficient help and advice is available from the consular service to United Kingdom citizens when their relatives die abroad.

Mr. Rifkind

Yes, Sir. Our consuls abroad provide whatever practical help and advice they can to relatives and friends of the deceased—for example, by putting them in touch with the police and local authorities. They will also provide a list of local lawyers, names of suitable interpreters, and give advice about local burial, cremation, or repatriation of the remains. It is, however, for the local police to investigate any suspicious circumstances concerning the death.

Mr. Cryer

Has the Foreign and Commonwealth Office not read the "Helen Smith Story"? Does the Minister not realise that Ron Smith became concerned because of the obstruction of officials of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office? Should it not be the task of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office to investigate deaths of United Kingdom Citizens abroad rather than leave the task to the persistence and determination of parents, as happened in the Helen Smith case?

Mr. Rifkind

Mr. Smith received a great deal of advice and help from consular staff in Saudi Arabia, who accompanied him on visits to the police and provided interpretation, transport and accommodation at the embassy. The hon. Gentleman should be aware that local investigations of a crime must be the responsibility of the police of the country concerned, and that any assistance given by other countries can be provided only with the agreement and co-operation of the country primarily concerned.

Mr. Ogden

As there are reports that the Federal Government of Germany have re-established their consular service in Windhoek, Namibia, and as we have British premises in that city and country, is it not time that the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs was asked to reconsider his decision not to appoint British representatives, so that we may be better informed and so that British interests can be better protected?

Mr. Rifkind

Our ability to establish and maintain consular offices in various parts of the world demands a series of considerations to be undertaken. These include resource considerations and other wider matters.