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Diplomatic Service

Volume 504: debated on Thursday 21 January 2010

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what the Government's policy is on proposals to extend the provisions of the Vienna Convention to locally-engaged staff in countries where embassy employees have been subject to harassment by state authorities; and if his will make a statement. (311598)

The current provisions of Article 7 of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations 1961 (VCDR) allow sending states to appoint members of staff to its missions. There is a clear distinction in the way in which the VCDR treats staff appointed from the sending state and those recruited locally. This means that UK-based diplomatic agents, once appointed and accredited by the receiving state, are afforded immunities and privileges according to Article 31(1) of the VCDR, for example, immunity from the criminal jurisdiction of the receiving state and from its civil and administrative jurisdiction, subject to limited exceptions. However, under the current VCDR provisions the consent of the receiving state is required in order to appoint as diplomatic agents any locally engaged staff who are nationals or residents of that state and this consent can be withdrawn at any time under Article 8 of the VCDR.

Our locally engaged staff are either nationals or residents of the receiving state. The fact that VCDR gives the receiving state the right to withdraw any immunity afforded to locally engaged staff at will means that the Foreign and Commonwealth Office does not consider that offering them immunity is a viable means of affording them any substantive additional protection, particularly in those countries where relations with the host government are sometimes strained.