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Motion made, and Question put forthwith, pursuant to Standing Order No. 18(1) (Consideration of draft regulatory reform orders),

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Fire Safety

That the draft Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005, which was laid before the House on 17th  March, in the last Session of Parliament, be approved.—[Mr. Alan Campbell.]

Question agreed to.


Motion made, and Question put forthwith, pursuant to Standing Order No. 25 (Periodic adjournments),

Question agreed to.



24 May 2005 : Column 678

Russell Clamp

Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House do now adjourn.—[Mr. Alan Campbell.]

10.42 pm

Miss Ann Widdecombe (Maidstone and The Weald) (Con): I am grateful, Madam Deputy Speaker, for the opportunity to raise the case of Russell Clamp this evening. He is one of my constituents, married to a Filipino lady, and has one child. On 11 February 1990, he went to the United Arab Emirates and he was employed in that country for six years. On 9 November 1996 he set up small business there, called Leisure International. In 1997, this successful company expanded into larger premises and began to flourish. By May 2001, the company was able to expand again; it changed its name to Vision, and by that stage the opening of a second office, this time in Dubai, was planned.

The company was doing extremely well, but in June 2001 some Government officials announced that they wished to see my constituent. Efforts to telephone both offices to establish what would happen resulted in nothing. When he arrived at the office, his staff were sitting in reception with police officers, who checked his ID and asked him about another company about which he did not know. They passed it off at the time as a routine inquiry. Then, however, they closed his offices, boxed up his possessions, removed them and arrested my constituent and his manager, transferring Mr. Clamp to a high security facility. They removed all personal items, and refused to let him contact his wife or consular staff. It was several hours before he was even given water and the option to visit a lavatory. At no point was he told why he was there.

It appeared that the embassy was not allowed access because the case was, allegedly, so severe. Mr. Clamp's local sponsor in Dubai reacted to the situation by trying to contact several people over the next few days, only to find that all of them were under arrest without being charged. It then became clear that the companies under suspicion were the Middle East Research Group and another one called the SSS Corporate Research Dubai Group. Mr. Clamp had shared an office with the latter's sister company several years previously. That was the extent of my constituent's link with the companies under suspicion.

As a result of those goings-on, my constituent's trade licence was cancelled while he was still in confinement. His bank account was completely emptied, as was the company's account. The money is now reported to be untraceable.

On 3 July, Mr. Clamp was released from prison on what was called bail release. He had to surrender the passports of his wife and son, and was given a holding charge—which was not pressed subsequently—of conducting activities inconsistent with his trade licence. United Arab Emirates law states that the passports of a child and wife cannot be used for security.

After Mr. Clamp was released, he met up with others who had also been released from the same investigation. It appeared that the company SSS Corporate Research had a connection with Israel, and that Leisure International—the company that Mr. Clamp first set up—had done work in the past for SSS. Two days later,
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he was contacted by the British embassy and told that the prosecutor in Abu Dhabi wanted to ask some questions. Four appointments were made, which were not kept by that official.

On his final attempt to keep the appointment, Mr.   Clamp was handcuffed and taken to a police holding cell in Dubai. Once again, he was stripped of all personal belongings. He was put in a cell with 16 other people. The cell was filthy, and its floor covered with rotten food and spit. The lavatory facilities were only very basic, and there were cockroaches. The 17 people in the cell had to sleep with their legs entwined.

Over the next five or six days, my constituent received several beatings from Arab inmates. He sustained two broken ribs, nine broken teeth, open wounds to his spine and lower back, and bruises over his entire body. In the end, he was moved into solitary confinement. He says that that cell was filthy but that at least he was safe from being beaten.

Eventually, his wife was allowed to see him, the guard duty relaxed and he was allowed books, but he remained in solitary confinement for months. On 3 September, he was taken down to see a judge and chief prosecutor. The next day, he was released once again, this time on passport bail, until the conclusion of the investigation. He was told to report for questioning in two days, and he did so. However, in three months, he was never questioned once.

Mr. Clamp reported to the prosecutor, who said that he did not want to see him, as he was not central to the case. Eventually—and I mean eventually—Mr. Clamp obtained some medical treatment and was allowed to re-enter his office. He found that everything—all the equipment and his expensive personal possessions—had been removed.

Mr. Clamp sent a letter to the prosecutor about the missing items, to which the response was that they could not be traced. He made no further claim in respect of his personal possessions because that would have meant that he would have remained without his passport while an investigation took place.

Mr. Clamp spent his remaining time in the Emirates settling as much business as he could, but that was more or less impossible, as his accounts had been illegally closed down. However, he says that in that period he received support from people in both the European and Arab communities.

There were some problems to be resolved before he was allowed to re-enter the UK, but he arrived back on 5 March 2002 to be greeted by friends bearing warm coats. They then stayed with those friends for a few weeks until the local borough council managed to come up with emergency accommodation. Attempts from this country to secure the return of property that was taken in Dubai have been unsuccessful.

I am grateful for the support that I have had from Mr.  Paul Sizeman of the Foreign Office, who has made himself available to meet me on two occasions. He has contacted our embassy in the Emirates and has done his best to clarify the position. Nevertheless, in the end, all that he has been able to do is to repeat the advice that the chief prosecutor gave to Mr. Clamp, which was that
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he should pursue a legal claim against the police who had sealed the office and had responsibility for its security. The Foreign Office admits that it does not know whether Mr. Clamp has made any attempt to pursue such a claim. Well, we have to move in the real world. On the subject of whether he should have attempted to bring a legal action in the Emirates, Mr. Clamp says that it would have been impossible. His passport would be retained for the duration of the case and that could last for 10 to 15 years with massive legal costs—when everything had been taken from him—and even if the court decided in his favour he could still be held in the country while it was decided if an appeal would be made. For that reason, he has not been able to pursue legal action in the Emirates.

The Emirates are not a banana republic. They are not some poverty-stricken third world country. They are more than able to afford decent prison conditions for those who, regrettably, have to be housed there. They are a country supposedly under the rule of law, but there is no redress under that law for people who are victims of its abuse, rather than its use and reasonable exercise. I am seriously concerned about this case and I am concerned by the apparent impotence of the Foreign Office in dealing with it. I do not mean that as a criticism. I do not suggest that the Foreign Office has not tried to deal with the matter, but it would appear to be as impotent as Mr. Clamp to achieve any result.

I understand that our ambassador to the Emirates will visit this country in the not-too-distant future and I would be grateful for an opportunity to have a meeting with him directly. Failing that, I would like to go out to that country that treats its successful foreign residents so abominably, to ask officials face to face what will be done, even at this late stage. It is perhaps worth citing Prisoners Abroad, which today told my local television station that it has many cases, but never does any time go by when it does not have at least one outstanding case from the Emirates.

It is time to say openly and without fear that the Emirates are not living up to the standards that they are well capable of living up to, and the Foreign Office and—with all due respect—the Foreign Secretary should be a little more energetic in dealing with the fulfilment of their obligations.

10.53 pm

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