British Expatriates (Punjab)
Jeremy Browne (The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office; Taunton Deane, Liberal Democrat)
I am grateful for that intervention. I certainly accept that we have a legitimate role, which we exercise with vigour and enthusiasm, to press on countries around the world our desire to see them operate an effective and balanced justice system. Where we feel that improvements can be made, we make that point.
However, it is worth pointing out that British police have no jurisdiction to investigate crimes overseas. If a bereaved family suspects that British nationals were involved in the planning or committing of a crime, I urge them to report their concerns to their local UK police force. There may be occasions when it is appropriate for that force to act, but it is not the decisive and final actor, because that responsibility rests with the host country. FCO officials have met their Indian counterparts to discuss the wider issues that we are discussing today, and we will certainly look for opportunities for future co-operation. As the Minister, I give that undertaking personally, but I also make it on behalf of our high commissioner and his team in Delhi and in other posts across India.
Consular officials in India and in London will continue to monitor Mrs Soor-Hudson’s case and will keep her informed as and when we receive updates from the Indian authorities. I am aware that Mrs Soor-Hudson is concerned about the financial implications of continuing to work on her case in India. Although I appreciate the pressure that that concern must bring, I am afraid that the FCO cannot provide her with financial assistance in that regard. It is not our policy and, as I pointed out to Mr Sharma a few moments ago, given that there are literally tens of millions of overseas visits by British nationals each year, it is not financially viable for us to provide that service in all cases where it might be thought desirable.
The FCO’s role in such cases is to ensure that the family receive information about local police and legal procedures. Where there are concerns that the investigation is not being carried out in line with local procedures or there are justified complaints about discrimination against the person who has died or their family, the FCO can make appropriate representations to the local authorities.
To summarise, I am confident that consular officials are doing all that they can, within the remits of our consular assistance policy, to assist Mrs Soor-Hudson in her efforts to establish what happened to her mother. I hope that my hon. Friend the Member for Esher and Walton and all hon. Members are assured that we will continue to raise her case with the Indian authorities at the appropriate times.
The British Government take our consular responsibilities extremely seriously; consular responsibilities are one of our three foreign policy priorities. Although we have a long-standing and close relationship with India, based on a broad range of mutual interests, we will continue to push our consular interests in support of British citizens in India without fear, because we see this as an important area for the Indian authorities to focus on when British nationals and their MPs feel that a shortcoming needs to be addressed.
Question put and agreed to.