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Volume 496: debated on Wednesday 9 September 2009

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent reports he has received on the killing of two UK citizens working as private security contractors in Iraq by another private security contractor; what restrictions there are upon the recruitment by private security companies of those with diagnosed mental illnesses; what plans the Government have to renew the effectiveness of such restrictions; what guidance his Department has issued to such contractors on their recruitment procedures; and if he will make a statement. (290840)

British consular staff continue to provide assistance to the British nationals involved following a recent incident in Iraq where one British national was killed. The Iraqi authorities are investigating and we remain in close contact with all parties concerned.

The British nationals involved in the incident mentioned above were not working for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO). When private security companies are employed by the FCO in Iraq, our contracts make it very clear what our requirements are for security personnel, both in terms of their individual skills, qualifications and experience, and their health and fitness. The companies are required to ensure that their personnel are fit for the roles required of them. Our contractors are also required to ensure they comply with all appropriate UK health and safety and discrimination legislation. The FCO considers companies' resourcing and recruitment plans and procedures as part of its evaluation of their bids, at the point at which the contracts are competitively tendered. But we ultimately rely on the companies to ensure that these procedures are robustly and consistently applied under the contract, so as to ensure that the calibre of the contracted personnel is maintained. We naturally monitor the implementation of FCO contracts and raise any concerns with the companies concerned.

There is currently no legislation dealing specifically with the overseas operations of Private Military and Security Companies (PMSCs) registered in or operating from the UK. Recruitment and vetting of personnel by private security companies is currently a matter for the companies concerned. However the Government launched a public consultation in April this year seeking to promote high standards of conduct by PMSCs internationally. Responses to this consultation are currently being analysed.