HC Deb 21 May 2002 vol 386 c260W
David Taylor

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on the report of the Parliamentary ombudsman into the complaint received from the hon. Member for Tiverton and Honiton (Mrs. Browning) on behalf of Mrs. Louisa Petschi (Case No. C974/01) concerning his Department's handling of a news report received on Sunday 6 December 1998 about actions affecting British nationals held hostage in Chechnya. [58710]

Mr. Bradshaw

I welcome the fact that the ombudsman found no evidence of maladministration by officials in the way in which the decision to discount the report was taken, and therefore no basis for questioning the merits of that decision. However, in view of the possible confusion over the timing of the handling of the report by FCO officials, reflected in statements by Ministers at the time, the Permanent Under-Secretary, on the Ombudsman's recommendation, wrote to Mrs. Petschi and her Member of Parliament on 21 March to offer his apologies for the lack of clarity as to the sequence of events.

To the extent that this touches on the statement of the then Minister, my hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Central (Mr. Lloyd), to the House on 9 December 1998, Official Report, column 322, I wish to confirm that the Minister's answer reflected the judgment of officials at the time that the news report did not represent an advance warning of a rescue attempt. This remains our view.