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.
Under the Coalition Government, consular services have been made one of only three overarching priorities for the FCO. Following an internal review prompted by its handling of the Libya crisis in early 2011, the FCO has overhauled its consular crisis response mechanisms, including through the launch of an expanded consular crisis centre in London in October 2012. In April 2013, the FCO launched a new overall three-year consular strategy, ‘Consular Excellence’, with the aim of providing ‘the best consular service in the world’ by 2016.
The Foreign Affairs Committee is launching an inquiry into the FCO’s consular services, and invites submissions of evidence and possible recommendations on the department’s performance in this area. The Committee would welcome submissions which assess in particular:
- how the UK’s consular services compare with those of similar countries;
- what UK nationals can legitimately expect from UK consular services and whether current consular service provision meets these expectations;
- recent and planned reform to the FCO’s provision of consular services, since 2010 and as set out in the new 2013-2016 ‘Consular Excellence’ strategy, including changes to notarial and legalisation services, the withdrawal of on-the-ground consular services from some European cities, and the increased handling of consular work through centralised call centres and online;
- the FCO’s consular support for UK nationals in situations of particular difficulty or distress abroad, and their families, such as the families of UK nationals who die abroad, UK nationals in foreign criminal justice systems and their families, and UK nationals involved in international hostage taking and child abduction situations;
- the FCO’s handling of consular crises;
- the FCO’s communication of consular information to the public, in both normal times and crisis situations (and including the department’s accession to the Twitter Alerts Service in November 2013);
- the role, status and performance of Honorary Consuls;
- the transfer of authority for the issuing of UK passports overseas to the Passport Office, under the Home Office;
- how the FCO works on consular affairs with other Government departments and agencies, companies and civil society;
- FCO staff training and deployment for consular affairs;
- the FCO’s mechanisms for evaluating and further improving its consular services and dealing with complaints; and
- the charging structure for the FCO’s consular services, and the overall level of consular support which the FCO provides to UK citizens.
Call for evidence:
Interested groups or individuals are encouraged to submit written evidence to the inquiry. Written evidence should be received by the Committee no later than Monday 20 January.
Please note: As part of a scheme to encourage paperless working and maximise efficiency, the Committee is piloting a new web portal for online submissions of written evidence. Written submissions for this inquiry should therefore be sent via the Foreign Affairs Committee website.
Form of written evidence:
Submissions must be no longer than 3,000 words. The main body of any submission should use numbered paragraphs. Each submission should contain:
- a short summary, perhaps in bullet point form;
- a brief introduction about the person or organisation submitting evidence, perhaps explaining their area of expertise or experience;
- any factual information from which the Committee might be able to draw conclusions, or which could be put to other witnesses;
- and any recommendations for action by the Government or others which the submitter would like the Committee to consider for inclusion in its report to the House.
- Submissions should be in MS Word format (we cannot process PDFs) with no use of colour or logos.
- Further information on submitting evidence
Please contact Zoe Oliver-Watts, Inquiry Manager, on 020 7219 3613 or [email protected]
Members of the press with enquires should contact Alex Paterson, Select Committee Media Officer, on 020 7219 1589 or 07917 488488, or [email protected]