I thank the hon. Lady for raising her question.
The House will appreciate that, in dealing with Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe, a detained person in Iran, some matters are confidential, so I hope the House will appreciate that I may be sparing in some of my responses.
The treatment of all British-Iranians detained in Iran, including Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe, is a priority for the UK Government. We are committed to doing everything we can for each of them, and I have met Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s family a number of times, as has the Foreign Secretary. We have repeatedly asked the Iranians to release Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe on humanitarian grounds, and I do so again today.
During his recent visit to Tehran, the Foreign Secretary raised Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s case and those of our other dual nationals detained in Iran. The welfare of British nationals in detention is a priority for us, and we are also seeking clarification from the Iranian authorities about how they propose to deal with any reported hunger strike situation if it progresses. We have made it clear that Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe must be treated humanely and in line with international standards, and we are urgently seeking clarification of reports that her calls to her family in the UK are being restricted.
Most hon. Members will be aware of my constituent, Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, who has now been imprisoned in Iran for nearly three years, separated from her family, her husband and her daughter. She was on holiday in Tehran visiting her parents with her young daughter when she was imprisoned. The United Nations has declared her imprisonment to be illegal and arbitrary, yet her treatment in Iran has become considerably worse in the past two weeks.
In the past two weeks, Nazanin’s ration of food has been slowly decreased. She has been told that the phone calls she is allowed to make to her family and husband in London are now restricted and will be further restricted. She has also been told that she will be denied medical access, even though she has discovered lumps on her breasts. In the light of this, Nazanin has said that she will go on hunger strike from next week. I would therefore like to ask the Minister a few questions.
First, do the Government believe the ill treatment and imprisonment of a British citizen to be worthy of more than just tough rhetoric? Namely, at what point will the treatment of Nazanin and other British nationals detained in Iran warrant a diplomatic summons for the Iranian ambassador?
Secondly, does the Minister believe that the Government have used all diplomatic means at their disposal to protect Nazanin’s welfare? If so, have the Government formally requested a private meeting with Nazanin in prison?
Thirdly, in the wake of the specific recent abuses, will the Foreign Secretary finally make a decision on whether to grant Nazanin diplomatic protection, for which we have been asking for a long time?
Finally, the UN Security Council is mandated to safeguard international peace and security. Does the Foreign Secretary agree that Iran’s practice of detaining British nationals has become sufficiently widespread that it now constitutes a crime worth discussing at the Security Council meeting in April? If so, will he sponsor a meeting and do just that?
I think the Minister and the Foreign Secretary are determined to solve this case, and I believe their resolve is genuine. From my conversations with them, I have found them to be very insistent on demanding that Nazanin is released, but the truth is that this is now a matter of life and death. Tough rhetoric will not do anything. What we need is decisive action from our Government to make sure that my constituent, Nazanin, comes home alive to West Hampstead. What action will the Minister take to save this woman’s life?
Again, I am grateful to the hon. Lady for what she has said and the way in which she has said it. A number of things that she has raised on behalf of her constituent must remain hers, as she puts her case for her, and I am sure those words will have been heard very carefully not only in this House but in Tehran. Let me respond to some of the issues that she has raised.
The circumstances of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s detention are well known. I have met the family a number of times, and I have met the little girl in Tehran. On humanitarian grounds, we have consistently pressed Iran to recognise that reuniting a mother with her child in these circumstances must be absolutely paramount.
In addition, we note that Iran does not of course recognise dual nationality. That is why it has not been possible to have this case treated as a normal consular case in which we would expect access. It is not treated in that way by Iran. We have noticed that if she is to be treated as an Iranian national, as those in Iran wish, she is now at a stage where she should be eligible for parole. We hope and believe that that might be the course of action taken—again, I stress on humanitarian grounds.
Without commenting on all the matters raised by the hon. Lady, we consider action in terms of what we think is in the best interests of any particular dual national. There are one or two others in Iran, and there are others around the world, and each individual action that the Foreign and Commonwealth Office takes is judged by us to be in their best interests. There is no standard template, because all circumstances are different.
There is constant communication between the FCO and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. I think the House is aware of the number of times the Foreign Secretary has raised the matter. I have also raised it through personal contact in Tehran, and it is raised regularly through the embassy there as well. The request for diplomatic protection is still being considered in relation to whether it would add anything to the circumstances. As I say, the request for a meeting has been made, but it is not possible because of the attitude towards dual nationals.
As the Foreign Secretary has stated, we remain of the view that Iran is a state looking for recognition around the world—it is a state with a strong and proud history—and we feel that this case might be handled in a different way. I know that that view has been expressed many times in the House before, but we will continue to raise the case, and to do so in the way that we think is in Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s best interests. I note everything the hon. Lady has to say. The matter is always—always—under consideration.
The hon. Member for Hampstead and Kilburn (Tulip Siddiq) is assiduous in bringing this case before the House, and Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s husband continues to bring it before the public. I know the Secretary of State has worked very hard to do what he can, and he has certainly been raising it over the festive period. However, Nazanin is now in a much more dangerous situation, and I would like to know what more can be done beyond keeping this case in the public eye. What more practically can be done?
It is very good to see my hon. Friend in her place.
This is not simply a question of keeping the case in the public eye, which, understandably, Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s husband has sought to do, as have other colleagues. It is very much about the communication that goes on more on diplomatic channels, and that is constant. I can assure my hon. Friend that the case is raised on every possible occasion, as with other dual nationals, and we will continue to do so. Her access to medical care at present, bearing in mind her condition, is a matter of supreme importance to the United Kingdom. We would hope, on purely compassionate grounds, that medical access, which has been assured in the past, will continue.
Thank you, Mr Speaker, for granting this urgent question. I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Hampstead and Kilburn (Tulip Siddiq) on securing it, and I thank her on behalf of the whole House for her tireless campaigning to bring Nazanin home.
I can only echo what my hon. Friend has said regarding the latest terrible turn of events: the denial of medical treatment to Nazanin and Narges Mohammadi, with their announcement of a planned hunger strike in protest; and the cruel, vengeful response of the Iranian authorities in stopping Nazanin’s weekly phone calls with her husband, Richard, and in cutting food rations. This would be inhuman treatment of any prisoner, but to pile this torment on an innocent woman, whose mental and physical health is already suffering, is nothing but barbaric. I join my hon. Friend in calling on the Iranian authorities not just to restore Nazanin’s basic rights, but to restore her freedom without any further delay.
We must remember that, as we know, the Iranians face a twin threat this year from crippling US sanctions, affecting their trade and investment prospects worldwide, and from dangerous military escalation, as the US, Israel and Saudi Arabia gear up for a more direct conflict. Those of us who look at those dual prospects with horror, and despair that the path of progress of progress and peace that the Iran nuclear deal opened up is growing increasingly narrow, know that Iran will need us to fight on its behalf to preserve that deal, preserve trade and stop the descent into war. However, Tehran needs to hear this: every day that Nazanin’s inhumane treatment continues and every time we see fresh human rights abuses in Iran, it makes it more and more difficult to summon the stomach for that fight.
Does the Minister of State agree with me that when the Foreign Office says Iran is holding Nazanin for diplomatic advantage, Tehran needs to realise that in fact the opposite is true? Every day it continues her unjust detention, it is simply digging its own diplomatic grave.
I am extremely grateful for the way in which the shadow Foreign Secretary puts the case. She is right to say that in Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s situation, access to medical treatment as requested is absolutely essential. The United Kingdom will continue to make that point very clearly. Indeed, the work through the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Tehran to try to clarify the situation on calls is continuing with urgency.
On the wider issues that the right hon. Lady mentions, she makes a very fair point which we have stressed in our contact with Iran. We have sought to understand Iran’s concerns about the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, an agreement which it signed and which we abide by. We do indeed seek to make a case to others about the importance of abiding by agreements and international norms. It is not easy in this context, but it is made that bit more difficult if we see a situation where there is an obvious humanitarian response, quite outside any other considerations. People would notice and no doubt approve if there was a swift return of Nazanin to her daughter. I can only hope that those remarks are well noted. The United Kingdom will continue to press along the same lines.
This is an extremely important and sensitive issue that has been running on for far too long. I pay tribute to Ms Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s representation in this House, which has been conducted with huge capability for many, many months—far too long, as the hon. Member for Hampstead and Kilburn (Tulip Siddiq) and I agree. I also pay tribute to the Minister for his work with his Iranian opposite numbers. May I urge him also to work with our European partners and others around the world? Over many years, we have seen Iran take hostages from many countries, not just the United Kingdom, and hold them for the extraction of influence or ransom. This is not a new action by the Iranian Government. Although this particular case is more egregious than most, it is not just us who suffer. Could the Minister perhaps organise, with United Nations partners, a debated motion through the Security Council, which would expose some of the evil done by this evil regime?
I am grateful for my hon. Friend’s comments and contributions as Chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee. I can only repeat that we will continue to do what we can in the best interests of any detained national. We recognise the wider issues he raises. We will continue to handle the matter on a humanitarian basis, but his wider point is not ignored.
May I first of all, like the Chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee, pay tribute to the hon. Member for Hampstead and Kilburn (Tulip Siddiq) for her continued efforts and for securing this urgent question today? I thank the officials who continue to work on this case and groups such as Amnesty International, which continue to work hard to keep it in the public eye. We also need to pay tribute to Nazanin’s family for the courage they have shown, not least over the past few weeks.
We condemn, absolutely wholeheartedly, the actions of the Iranian regime not only in this case, but in the cases, as others have pointed out, of other nationals who have been taken. This will have a deep impact on how it is portrayed across the international community. More importantly, we all must remember the human impact of depriving Nazanin’s family and small child of a wife and a mother. Nazanin has now spent more than 1,000 days in prison. Her freedom must be restored.
I know there were particular concerns about Nazanin’s health. What discussions has the Minister had about medical assistance that might be brought to her? As others have asked, what further action can be taken, either at the Security Council or with our European Union partners, who have similar concerns about the actions of the Iranian regime?
Certainly, we very much echo the appreciation that the hon. Gentleman expresses for Nazanin’s husband and family for the way they have tried to deal with these very difficult circumstances over a long period, and for the hon. Member for Hampstead and Kilburn for the way she raises them.
With the understanding of the House, I will not go into detail about the medical treatment or assistance sought—I am not sure that would be appropriate—but, in the circumstances we have been made aware of, we are doing what is appropriate in that regard. We stress the humanitarian aspect of the case and the fact that if Nazanin, who is a dual national, were treated as an Iranian national, there would now be an appropriate opportunity under the Iranian legal system to take account of the circumstances and reunite this family, as is so desperately needed.
The astounding inhumanity displayed by the Iranian regime continues to horrify many people around the world, including all Members of this House. In the light of how traumatic this case is for the family of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, will my right hon. Friend say what ongoing support is being provided to them at this incredibly difficult time?
My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary has been in contact with the family some 11 times since August, and I believe further contact is imminent. That support is offered here; I think Richard Ratcliffe is aware that he can have contact with the Department at any time. Our officials—I am grateful for Members’ recognition of their work—are also in contact with the family. I will not go into too much detail in relation to Tehran, but the family there have also been seen and have contact. I have met them a couple of times. Their circumstances are quite remarkable, and they are doing everything they can to understand the system and to try to ensure that what they do is in the best interests of Nazanin.
I pay tribute to my hon. Friend the Member for Hampstead and Kilburn (Tulip Siddiq) for the fight she has put up for her constituent. I, too, have met the family several times. I have had a good relationship with Iranian officials in the past. I chair a committee of the Inter-Parliamentary Union, and the last time I met Iranian MPs, when I raised the case of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, they said to me, “We promise that if you come to Iran, you can visit her in prison.” Obviously, I have not rushed to do so, but that offer was made and I am willing to go if circumstances permit. However, our immediate concern must be her own safety and health. We are all very concerned about that.
I pay tribute also to the Foreign Office, latterly, for the efforts it has made on Nazanin’s behalf. However, the Secretary of State said on the “Today” programme:
“Nazanin isn’t the only person who is being detained, despite being totally innocent, as a pawn of diplomatic leverage.”
What did he mean by that? Are press reports that our Government owe the Iranian Government money true? If it is a matter of money, why do we not pay?
I thank the right hon. Lady. I know her work with the IPU and her compassion in this case. Let me disentangle a couple of things. I am grateful for what she has said about a potential meeting. I am not sure necessarily that the parliamentarians she met had the authority to make such an offer—it has not proved possible for us to see Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe up to now—but I appreciate the good faith in which it was made. Any such contact, through any contacts and friends she may have in the Iranian Parliament, has to be helpful, as I think many people see the circumstances in the same way. The issue of an outstanding financial payment is entirely separate—it goes back many years and is being handled through a completely different channel—and there is no linkage between the two that is accepted either by the UK Government or the Iranian Government. It is a matter that is well known to us.
The Foreign and Commonwealth Office does an amazing job with about 20,000 foreign national consular cases every year—to put that into context, that is about 30 per Member of Parliament per year. Notwithstanding the complexity of this case and of dealing with Iran, this does highlight some fundamental issues around how we treat dual nationals. Is it not time to review the policy on dual nationals and the advice we give them when they are travelling to their other country?
I am grateful to my hon. Friend, who knows the situation extremely well from his own diligent work in the Department some years ago. Travel advice recognises the situation of dual nationals and gives appropriate advice when necessary. On Iran, there is specific advice about the situation of dual nationals, and, where they might be at particular risk, that is made very clear. On whether there is a case over time for considering this on a wider international basis, there may be a call for that. I understand the point he makes very clearly.
The case of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe is heartbreaking: the separation of a mother from her young child and now this dreadful escalation in the reduction of food rations and the denial of medical treatment. Sadly, Iran has form when it comes to the cruel practice of preventing medical attention. In 2017, one political prisoner died and another lost part of his face because of untreated cancers. What discussions has the Minister had with his counterparts in other countries, including those with slightly warmer relations with Iran, about how we can present a united front in raising this case and others like it?
I am grateful to the hon. Lady, who makes her own points very strongly. I have touched on this matter with one or two neighbours in the general context of perceptions of Iran, but each case is separate and individual. We do what we can in the best interests of all our dual nationals. Some are known and some are unknown to the general public. We always have to bear that in mind.
In the light of the role played by British diplomats, and my right hon. Friend and his colleagues in the Foreign Office, in engaging with the Iranians successfully before Christmas to persuade them to persuade the Houthi to go to the Stockholm peace talks on Yemen, while not conflating that issue with this, may I ask whether there are any pointers from that recent diplomatic engagement with Iran that could help to bring some satisfaction in this case?
I congratulate my right hon. Friend on the recent announcement and thank him for his question. Iran is a complex country. The way in which there was indeed help and assistance at a vital stage to ensure that the talks in Stockholm went ahead was an example of what Iran can do to move its position as far as many outside Iran are concerned. As one would expect, in all our dealings with Iran, while never being blind to issues that we consider to be very difficult, in terms of its conduct and what it might be doing, the UK constantly looks for opportunities to change the nature of relationships in a confrontational region. As the shadow Foreign Secretary said, in the region as a whole there is too much confrontation, too many opportunities for conflict and too many situations in which people feel threatened and act in a way that increases that threat rather than decreases it. One would expect the UK to play its part in trying to decrease that threat, and Iran is part of the process whereby those threats might be decreased. We will continue to work on that basis.
There have been several questions in the House about this case, and the Minister and the Foreign Secretary have talked about it to the Foreign Affairs Committee on a number of occasions. If reports are true, it appears that the situation of this prisoner is deteriorating rather than improving, and that she requires additional support. What has made the situation deteriorate, and what can we do through our partners—either in the P5 at the United Nations, or in the UN General Assembly more broadly—to try to improve the situation, not just for Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe but for all prisoners throughout the world who are held illegally?
I do not think that it is really possible to answer the hon. Gentleman’s question. It is not always possible to gain access to those who are making the decisions relating to people who are held in detention in a variety of countries, and that is certainly true in this particular case. I think that the best the United Kingdom can do is make very clear how we see the situation, keep up our constant contact and requests for assistance, and continue to raise the matter as it has been raised here, but we are not always aware of what may have triggered one development or what might trigger a release. All I can say is that, as the House would expect, constant efforts are made to bring about the latter.
The Iranian regime has employed the taking and tormenting of hostages right from the outset. Surely, at some point, one reaches a stage at which one has to say that sweet reason and appeals to compassion are not working and severe sanctions must be considered. What sanctions are at our disposal, and what consideration has been given to imposing them?
I congratulate the hon. Member for Hampstead and Kilburn (Tulip Siddiq) on bringing this matter to the House and giving us a chance to participate. I also thank the Minister for his endeavours on behalf of everyone involved, but Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe in particular.
Nazanin had threatened to go on hunger strike. She was then informed that her weekly phone calls to her child and her family would be withdrawn. That is undoubtedly the final straw, which demands that we do more to help her. Does the Minister not agree that it is the latest low blow against this British mother, and is completely unacceptable?
What more can be done to help Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe? Can the UN help, for instance, or could other countries with which we have contact use their influence?
No one understands compassion better than the hon. Gentleman, who articulates it so clearly in the House on so many occasions.
We still think it best to handle this issue in a bilateral way, which is how we deal with a number of dual nationality cases. We do have contact with the system in Iran, and we are continuing to pursue that. We are very disappointed by the present circumstances, and we are deeply concerned about the humanitarian aspects—both Nazanin’s separation from her child and the current restrictions on medical care, which must be lifted as soon as possible. We will continue to press for that, using all our contacts bilaterally.
My right hon. Friend has implied that we may not be speaking to the people who make the decisions on Nazanin. Is he suggesting that other power brokers, such as the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, may well be the decision makers, and have we any contacts with them?
The authority structure in Iran is complex, as any study of it will show. I am absolutely certain that the messages that the British Government send, and our work through the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Tehran, get through to people, but it is not always possible for us to have contact with every part of that complex power system.
Is Iran not a signatory to the international covenant on economic, social and cultural rights, and is it not in breach of that covenant by denying Nazanin access to medical treatment? Are states like Iran free to disregard treaties and covenants as they see fit, or should there be consequences?
The hon. Gentleman asks me a question to which I do not know the answer, but the point he makes is fair. The adherence to international agreements is very important, and they should stay in place. The Iranians point this out in relation to JCPOA—the joint comprehensive plan of action—of course on their own part. Whatever the signing of agreements may be, the circumstances of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe stand on their own account, and that is why we press for the humanitarian reunification of a mother with her child and the granting of freedom to this lady.
I congratulate my right hon. Friend on the actions he and his colleagues are taking on this terrible case, but will he elucidate the following issue? The case of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe is very much in the public eye, and so it should be, but there are other British nationals or dual nationals imprisoned in Iran. Is she being treated any differently from those other individuals, and if those individuals are being discriminated against as well, what action is my right hon. Friend taking to ensure that those cases are looked at so they can be freed too?
To answer my hon. Friend may I go back to something I said right at the beginning? The very nature of these cases means we are dealing with individuals, some known only to their own families, and the details and circumstances of those cases are rightly and appropriately confidential. Again, the best thing I can say to the House is that, as all colleagues will know from their own dealings with our consular offices—those staff who work both in London and at post—every effort is made to ensure all actions are handled in the best interests of the individual detained. That remains the case, and that is certainly the case for all dual nationals in Iran.
May I also pay tribute to my hon. Friend the Member for Hampstead and Kilburn (Tulip Siddiq) for her work for her constituent? I am sure the Minister shares my concerns about dual nationals who find themselves in the situation where the basics of food and access to healthcare are being denied. Surely the Government need to look at this and see what more can be done to help people who find themselves in these situations.
Whether someone is a dual national or mono-national should make no difference: the humanitarian care of those who have been detained under a system through its own processes should be universal, and in these circumstances the situation of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe calls out for appropriate access to medical care and appropriate and humane treatment, and that is what the United Kingdom demands.
May I congratulate the hon. Member for Hampstead and Kilburn (Tulip Siddiq) on tabling this urgent question, you, Mr Speaker, on granting it, and the Minister on his response to it? Will he share with the House his thinking as to why the Iranian regime seems to be willing to use up scarce diplomatic capital and to incur further reputational damage by not only the continued detention of this particular woman but her worsening circumstances?
I am grateful to my hon. Friend. If I was to offer some thoughts on that they would take us the best part of the next half-hour, because again I go back to the point about the complexities in relation to Iran. This is a 40-year-old regime with different power structures and a concern about a world that it views rather differently from us in terms of the threat it feels is posed to it, and that plays into an equally complex situation in the region, where many see threats against them and take actions that only increase threats, rather than decrease them. It is not possible to offer a snap, cod view of thinking except to say Iran pays proper understanding, but equally, in doing so, there can be no turning away from those areas where we think the conduct of Iran has not been right and has not been correct, and we certainly make that case, as well as seeking, where we can, to understand the position it puts to us and the rest of the world.
The United Kingdom’s primary interaction with the Iranian regime has been through its Prime Minister, but we know that the real powerbroker behind Nazanin’s detention has been the supreme leader, Ayatollah Khamenei. What efforts have been made to reach direct interaction and influence with the real powerbroker behind this situation?
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his question. As I indicated before, it is a complex authority structure. I am absolutely confident that our representations go through to the right quarters, even if indirectly. We will continue to seek to do that, but we will look for any new avenues that might be effective.
These events have been very traumatic for Nazanin’s family, and not least for her sister-in-law, who lives in my constituency. Can the Minister confirm that the ongoing inhuman treatment of Nazanin is doing great damage to Iran’s reputation on the international stage, and that that point will be made directly to Iran’s supreme leader and to the Iranian Prime Minister?
The hon. Gentleman makes his own point very well. Anyone looking at these situations objectively, regardless of the politics of the situation and the complexities of what is happening in the middle east, will see a mother and her child and wonder how on earth this can be going on, particularly in a situation where, under Iranian law and recognising Iran’s role and its legal system, there is an opportunity to take a course of action that could change this perception of Iran. That is something that we hope might now strike Iran.
I thank the hon. Member for Hampstead and Kilburn (Tulip Siddiq) for her diligence in bringing her constituent’s case to the House again. I would like to pass on the solidarity of my constituents who have been in touch with me to Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe and her family; they often share their concerns. I know that the Minister will be aware of the situation in Iran, so may I ask him to speak to his colleagues in the Home Office? I have many Iranian constituents who are seeking some form of leave to be in the United Kingdom and they often find that it is very much delayed. Given the significance of the FCO’s advice to people travelling to Iran, will he ensure that his colleagues in the Home Office are aware of this and take it into account in their decision making?
I am grateful to the hon. Lady and her constituents, and indeed to the constituents of the many hon. Members who have written to their MPs and, through them, to me about the circumstances of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe to ensure that she is never forgotten by anyone. I will certainly bring the hon. Lady’s points about the Home Office directly to my colleagues.
I congratulate the hon. Member for Hampstead and Kilburn (Tulip Siddiq) on gaining this urgent question. I should also like to pass on to the Zaghari-Ratcliffe family my thanks and those of the family of my constituent Jagtar Singh Johal for the support that they have offered his family during his detention in the Republic of India.
The theocracy of Iran cites diplomatic support and consular services, but there is a litany of inconsistency, whether in relation to the Republic of India in relation to Jagtar Singh Johal or to the Islamic Republic of Iran in relation to the Zaghari-Ratcliffe case. In order to get over some of those inconsistencies, will a Minister from the Foreign Office agree to attend the all-party parliamentary group on deaths abroad and consular services and assistance, to listen to the lived experiences of families who are undergoing this situation here in the UK while their family members are being held abroad, whether in Iran or anywhere else? It is that lived experience that will inform best practice in the Ministry.
On and off, I have been dealing with consular cases in the middle east region since 2010. I have met a number of families in very difficult situations following a variety of crises, as well as those who have been held. In each particular case, we have tried to engage the consular service, which tries to look at each case individually and to apply its sense of what is in the best interests of each individual being held abroad. The contact has to be very good between them and the families, but I know that there is not always agreement about what might be in the person’s best interest. My right hon. Friend the Member for Rutland and Melton (Sir Alan Duncan) is the Minister with responsibility for consular matters within the Department—[Interruption.] One of my ministerial colleagues has principal responsibility for all consular matters, and I will certainly ensure that the hon. Gentleman’s request is passed on—[Interruption.] The Minister responsible is my hon. Friend the Member for West Worcestershire (Harriett Baldwin). We have heard the hon. Gentleman’s request, and I am sure that a colleague will attend that APPG meeting if a request comes through.