1 Our inquiry |
1. Parliament last considered consular services in
detail in 2006, when the Public Accounts Committee published a
report into consular services to British nationals,
following a major National Audit Office (NAO) report on consular
services in November 2005.
We and our predecessor Committee have since then continued to
monitor major changes to consular services in some of our reports
on the FCO's performance and finances.
Like almost all of our fellow MPs, we also have an interest in
consular services on behalf of our constituents, and many of us
have had contact and worked with the FCO in recent times to raise
and help solve specific problems.
2. We issued a call for written submissions in December
2013, and we took oral evidence from former Ambassadors, NGOs,
travel representatives and others between January and June 2014,
followed by the FCO Minister Mark Simmonds and FCO officials.
We visited the FCO's new crisis centre in London in January 2014.
In March 2014, we undertook a two-day visit to Malaga, the largest
consular centre in Europe and the location of one of the three
new global call centres. We were keen to hear from members of
the public who had first-hand experience of consular services,
and we hosted a web forum in January-February and held a private
roundtable meeting with some of those who had submitted evidence
or comments on the forum, to discuss their experiences in greater
3. This report does not attempt to comment upon every
element of the Consular Service's wide range of work, and there
are some laudable developments in FCO consular services that we
do not intend to cover in detail, such as its work on rescuing
British victims of forced marriage abroad, or the important work
it does with victims of kidnapping and hostage-taking, and their
families. Based on the evidence received and our own experience
in working with the FCO on such cases, we consider these to be
admirable and impressive services run in extremely difficult circumstances.
However, in the course of the inquiry we heard from many members
of the general public who told us of disappointing and even distressing
experiences of trying to access particular kinds of consular support
when they needed it. This evidence is, by its nature, anecdotal,
and we cannot extrapolate or infer wider FCO failure from it.
It is also from a self-selecting group of people who had particular
experiences that motivated them to respond, so it may not be representative
of all experiences of the FCO's services. Yet the stories submitted
to us via our web forum, roundtable, and written evidence, are
of sufficient number and gravity that they give cause for concern
and cannot be dismissed. We explore some of those areas in chapters
4. As ever, we thank all of those who have participated
in this inquiry. In particular, we thank the many members of the
public who have taken time to engage with the inquiry and tell
us about their experiences, some of which were clearly painful
and distressing to revisit. The scale of the response reminded
us once more how vital consular services are to British nationals,
and how important it is to get them right.
1 Committee of Public Accounts, Thirty-ninth Report
of Session 2005-06, Consular services to British nationals, HC
Report by the Comptroller and Auditor General, Session 2005-2006,
The Foreign and Commonwealth Office: Consular Services to British Nationals,
HC 594, November 2005 Back
See, for example, Foreign Affairs Committee, Second Report of
Session 2008-09, Foreign and Commonwealth Office Annual Report 2007-08 Back