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Written Statements

Volume 571: debated on Wednesday 27 November 2013

Written Statement

Wednesday 27 November 2013

Foreign and Commonwealth Office

Government Official Communications

On Friday 22 November two UK Government bags containing official correspondence and communications, and clearly marked as such, were opened by Spanish officials, while the bags were in transit. This represents a serious interference with the official correspondence and property of Her Majesty’s Government, and therefore a breach of both the principles underlying the Vienna convention on diplomatic relations and the principle of state immunity. We take any infringement of these principles very seriously.

Following reports of the incident, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office made representations to the Spanish Ministry of Foreign Affairs at senior level over the weekend of 23 and 24 November and the British embassy in Madrid submitted a formal written protest to the Ministry on 25 November. In our protests we requested an urgent explanation of this incident from the Spanish Government and sought assurances that there will be no further interference with the UK’s official correspondence. We have now received that explanation from the Spanish and have been assured that we will not see a repeat of these actions.

The Vienna convention on diplomatic relations provides a legal framework for diplomatic relations between countries, including the privileges that enable diplomats to perform their functions, including official correspondence and the diplomatic bag. It embodies important international principles that protect official correspondence and communication between a state and its representatives. The UK strictly adheres to these principles and we expect other states to do the same.