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Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs written question – answered on 10th July 2013.

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Photo of Caroline Lucas Caroline Lucas Green, Brighton, Pavilion

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs with reference to the G8 policy paper on the threat posed by kidnapping for ransom by terrorists and the preventive steps the international community can take, published on 18 June 2013, (a) whether the Government has had discussions with interested parties about the freeing of convicted terrorists from prisons in West African states as part of hostage-release packages and (b) what steps he plans to take to encourage travel and insurance companies and other private sector parties to adopt similar guidelines and good practice for preventing and responding to terrorist kidnaps; and if he will make a statement.

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

The British Government has a long-standing policy of not making or facilitating substantive concessions to hostage-takers. This means the Government will not pay ransoms, exchange prisoners or change government policy.

We continue to press the international community to follow the UK's lead in not making any concessions to terrorists, at the UN and elsewhere. As the hon. Member notes, the Government recently used its G8 presidency to prioritise this issue and secured a significant G8 commitment unequivocally to reject the payment of ransoms to terrorists. We hope other countries, and businesses and the non-governmental sector in those countries, will follow the G8's lead.

It is already illegal to pay ransoms to terrorists under international and UK law. The British Government regularly engages with the travel industry, journalists, non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and businesses to ensure that they are taking steps to mitigate against kidnapping of their staff and are clear about how the Government can assist in any response. This includes meetings by the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, my hon. Friend Mark Simmonds, with the travel industry on the Sahel region last November and I met with the extractive industry representatives following the tragic attack in In Amenas, Algeria in January.

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