Select Committee on Welsh Affairs Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence


Briefing notes from the House of Commons Library to Chris Ruane MP


  You asked whether the United States had ever had a consulate in Wales, and also whether there was any indication that other countries were planning to set up consulates in Wales or Scotland because of devolution. This was in the context of an approach by the National Welsh American Foundation, who want to press for a US consulate once the Welsh Assembly is set up.

  I have found out from the American Embassy that there were several American consulates in Wales from the nineteenth century onwards: they did not have precise details of dates, but had found references to the existence of consulates, during the nineteenth century at least, in Beaumaris, Carmarthen, Llanelli, Milford Haven and Newport as well as in Swansea (until the 1940s or 1950s) and Cardiff (until about 1963). I have not been able to find any press reports indicating why the consulate in Cardiff was closed, but possibly the Foundation could pursue this through the local history library there.

  It may be of interest to know that the US consulates in Belfast and Edinburgh celebrated their 200th hundredth anniversaries in 1996 and 1998, respectively. The enclosed texts from the US Embassy website provide some historical background on the establishment of the two consulates:

    —  20 May 1996: the Belfast consulate: part of a long tradition;

    —  The Belfast Bicentennial speech, 20 May 1996, by Ambassador William J Crowe Jnr;

    —  The Consulate General of the United States of America in Scotland, History 1798-1998.

  You will see from the last item that US consulates were established during the nineteenth century in Glasgow, Dundee and Dunfermline, as well as in Edinburgh and in addition there were consular agencies in Aberdeen, Greenock, Kirkcaldy, Galashiels and Troon. The consular agencies had all been closed by 1922 and the consulate in Dunfermline closed in 1925. The consulates in Dundee and Glasgow lasted until 1940 and 1965 respectively, and it looks as if the pattern in Wales may have been very similar. It is also mentioned that the Edinburgh consulate was threatened with closure in 1995 because of cuts in the State Department budget, but subsequently won a reprieve.

  As you already know, the Irish Republic set up a consulate in Cardiff, and also in Edinburgh, in October 1998. The enclosed press articles (Irish Times, 11 June and 29 October 1998 and 27 February 1999 (not printed)) make it clear that these developments were related to the devolution process. I have been unable to find any references to other countries which are planning to set up consulates in Cardiff or Edinburgh because of devolution.

30 April 1999


  Further to my letter of 30 April on this subject, I have now received a reply from the Protocol Department at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, which deals with the accreditation of consulates in this country.

  The response I have received reads as follows:

    I am afraid we have no information about countries which may or intend to set up consulates in either Wales of Scotland because of devolution. What I can tell you, however, is that the following countries have set up honorary consulates in Edinburgh during the last 12 months: Brazil, Lithuania, Czech Republic and Mongolia. I have no information to suggest that any countries are setting up honorary consulates in Wales.

  Honorary consuls are non-career officials residing in the district for which they are to administer the consular post. They are often businessmen who carry out their consular functions on a part-time basis. Most states appoint consuls of both kinds, according to the deemed importance of the consular district, career consuls being appointed for the more important districts.[1].

  In the context of the enquiry you are dealing with, it may be useful to note that the principal functions of consuls generally are "promotion of commerce and industry, supervision of navigation, protection, and notarial functions".[2] The enclosed extract for Oppenheim's international law expands on these functions. (not printed)

  The official at the FCO with whom I was in contact about this has undertaken to let me know if and when he receives any further information on this subject and if anything comes through I will, of course, contact you again.

6 May 1999

1   Oppenheim's international law, 9 ed, 1992, p 1135. Back

2   Ibid, p 1139. Back

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