Consular services can be the most high-profile aspect of the work of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO), and the aspect through which UK citizens are most likely to come into contact with the department. In 2012, the FCO dealt with over 1 million general consular enquiries and over 100,000 consular cases, including over 20,000 cases requiring consular assistance. Following the Libya crisis in 2011, the FCO overhauled its consular crisis response mechanisms; and in April 2013 it launched a new overall three-year consular strategy with the aim of providing ‘the best consular service in the world’ by 2016.
The Committee launched an inquiry into FCO consular services in December 2013 and is investigating, in particular, how the UK’s consular services compare to those of other similar states; the charging structure for the FCO’s consular services and whether consular services meet the legitimate expectations of the UK public; the impact of recent and planned reforms to UK consular services; the FCO’s handling of consular crises, and its consular support for UK nationals in situations of particular difficulty or distress abroad, and their families; the FCO’s communication of consular information to the public; and the FCO’s processes for training its staff in consular matters, dealing with complaints and evaluating and improving its consular services.
The Committee's inquiry into the FCO's consular services is ongoing. It has recently returned from a visit to one of the UK's biggest consular facilities in Spain, and it is now taking some time to consider the written submissions and web forum comments, as well as the oral evidence we have taken so far (transcripts can be found below). The committee would like to repeat its thanks to all those who have already contributed to its work so far. In the coming 2-3 months, the Committee will publish written evidence and take further oral evidence (including from the responsible FCO Minister) before concluding its inquiry with a written report, which will be published.
If you would like to be kept informed of upcoming inquiry sessions and news, please sign up to the inquiry's email list by emailing [email protected] with the subject heading 'Consular services inquiry'.