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London Croughton Annex

Volume 678: debated on Wednesday 22 July 2020

I informed the House on 20 December that I had instructed my officials to discuss with the United States a revision of the immunity arrangements at the Croughton annex for US personnel and their families, following the road collision of 27 August 2019 in which Harry Dunn was killed. As I set out previously to the House, the status of US staff under the Vienna convention on diplomatic relations (VCDR) at the Croughton annex is the subject of special arrangements between the UK and US Governments, captured in exchanges of notes dating back to 1995. Those arrangements contained a waiver of immunity from criminal jurisdiction for US staff outside the course of their duties, but no such waiver for their family members.

I am glad to inform the House today that we have concluded those discussions with the US and agreed a revision of the arrangements. I welcome the constructive engagement of our US allies in these discussions.

First and foremost, the US waiver of immunity from criminal jurisdiction is now expressly extended to the family members of US staff at the Croughton annex, thus ending the anomaly in the previous arrangements and permitting the criminal prosecution of the family members of those staff, should these tragic circumstances ever arise again.

Secondly, the waiver from criminal jurisdiction now extends also to all embassy staff serving at the Croughton annex in respect of acts outside their official duties, not just administrative and technical staff.

Thirdly, the revised arrangements contain a further and new waiver in respect of inviolability. The Vienna convention on diplomatic relations not only provides for immunity from jurisdiction, but also provides for the separate privilege of inviolability, including complete protection from arrest and detention. The earlier Croughton arrangements contained no waiver of inviolability. This is addressed in the revised arrangements.

I am therefore pleased to report to the House that we have secured the agreement of the US so that the Croughton arrangements could not in future be used in the same way as in the tragic case of Harry Dunn. These changes took effect by way of an exchange of notes on 20 July.

Separately, we have continued to press the US on the need to improve road safety at RAF Croughton. I welcome the steps taken by the US base commander to extend mandatory requirements for driving training and instruction for all US staff on the base, and the improvement of road signage within the base and vehicles of staff to remind them to drive on the left.

I welcome the action of local authorities to add added extra signage outside the base to remind drivers to drive on the left.

I am pleased to inform the House that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Transport has launched a safety review of roads around the 10 US visiting forces (USVF) bases in England. This entails working with the Ministry of Defence, Highways England and respective police and local authorities—in the case of Croughton, the Northamptonshire police and South Northamptonshire Council.

We have the deepest sympathy for Harry Dunn’s family. No family should have to experience what they have gone through and I recognise that these changes will not bring Harry back. However, I hope that the knowledge that the Croughton arrangements have been revised and that a family in their position would now see justice done brings some small measure of comfort.