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High Commission (New Delhi)

Volume 459: debated on Tuesday 1 May 2007

5. If she will make a statement on the future accommodation and offices of the UK high commission in New Delhi. (134735)

The FCO’s estate in New Delhi provides efficient office and residential accommodation for our staff and those of other Government Departments. We do, of course, keep our estate strategy in New Delhi, as elsewhere, under constant review.

Given the ties of history that bind our two nations and the economic and political significance of India to this country and the wider world in the 21st century, does the Minister agree that it is desirable that the British high commissioner to New Delhi should continue to reside at 2 Rajaji Marg as he does at present? If it is impossible to negotiate a commercial deal with the Indian Government to enable him to do so, will the Minister give me a categoric assurance that the new residence will be of sufficient prestige to demonstrate to the Indians and the wider world how seriously we take that relationship?

I very much hope that our high commissioner stays there, if only for the architectural value of that beautiful building, which also has a beautiful garden. In 2006, 7,500 guests were entertained at the residence, including the hon. Gentleman. I do not know what wine he enjoyed, but I know that the wine is as good as the architecture.

Notwithstanding property wrangles, the Minister will be anxious to reassure the House that the services rendered by our post there continue apace, not least the consular services, especially in the light of the continuation in custody of my constituent, Panjab Singh, who has been held since Christmas eve by the authorities in the Punjab, without proper trial. It is strongly suspected that he has been mistreated. I know that the consular services are working hard, but will the Minister assure me that every effort will be made to assist my constituent, as happens in every other case of such difficulties in the sub-continent?

I can certainly give my hon. Friend that assurance. India is an extremely important country for the UK and we will do everything we can to continue with the excellent consular services that are provided. It is a complex country and, as my hon. Friend knows, there is considerable devolution to the states that make up India, which has, on occasion, resulted in great difficulties in some consular cases, including the one he raises.