Libya

Oral Answers to Questions — Foreign and Commonwealth Office – in the House of Commons at 2:30 pm on 15th March 2011.

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Photo of Stephen Gilbert Stephen Gilbert Liberal Democrat, St Austell and Newquay 2:30 pm, 15th March 2011

What assessment he has made of the adequacy of consular services provided to UK nationals during the recent events in Libya; and if he will make a statement.

Photo of Alistair Burt Alistair Burt The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs

In what has been the most complex FCO-led evacuation since Kuwait, some 600 British nationals were safely brought out of Libya, and we are all grateful for the immense amount of hard work done by those both in this country, and particularly in Libya, to look after our constituents. However, there are always lessons to be learned, and the Foreign Secretary has asked for a review of our evacuation practices in order to make sure that the practice overall is as good as the very best examples of it.

Photo of Stephen Gilbert Stephen Gilbert Liberal Democrat, St Austell and Newquay

I am grateful to the Minister for his answer. Given that article 20 of the treaty on the functioning of the European Union allows British nationals to receive consular assistance from any EU member state, what discussions is he having with other EU states to ensure effective and co-ordinated EU responses to such crises in future?

Photo of Alistair Burt Alistair Burt The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs

There was co-operation and consultation between all European partners right from the beginning. We often shared each other’s planes. The United Kingdom was able to bring out 819 foreign nationals of 43 different countries by way of the work we did. The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right that it is essential in such circumstances that there is a lot of co-operation, and we will continue to make sure our practices provide for that at all times.

Photo of Valerie Vaz Valerie Vaz Labour, Walsall South

The son of a constituent of mine is teaching in Riyadh. What extra consular services and what contingency plans are in place should the situation in Riyadh change?

Photo of Alistair Burt Alistair Burt The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs

The hon. Lady rightly draws attention to the fact that at present we should be looking at contingency plans right across the middle east and the Gulf, just in case. I can assure her that that work is going on. We all wish to see a stable middle east and north African region, but all the contingency plans are being reworked to make sure they are as effective as possible, and that applies as much to Saudi as it would to Bahrain, Yemen and all other points east.