Written statement to Parliament

Spanish interference with UK government official communications

Foreign Office Minister David Lidington has updated Parliament on Spanish interference with UK government official communications.

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

The Rt Hon David Lidington MP

Minister for Europe, David Lidington:

On Friday 22 November two UK government bags containing official correspondence and communications, and clearly marked as such, were opened by Spanish officials, whilst the bags were in transit. This represents a serious interference with the official correspondence and property of Her Majesty’s Government, and therefore a breach of both the principles underlying the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations and the principle of State immunity. We take any infringement of these principles very seriously.

Following reports of the incident, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office made representations to the Spanish Ministry of Foreign Affairs at senior level over the weekend of 23-24 November and the British Embassy in Madrid submitted a formal written protest to the Ministry on 25 November. In our protests we requested an urgent explanation of this incident from the Spanish Government and sought assurances that there will be no further interference with the UK’s official correspondence. We have now received that explanation from the Spanish and have been assured that we will not see a repeat of these actions.

The Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations provides a legal framework for diplomatic relations between countries, including the privileges that enable diplomats to perform their functions, including official correspondence and the Diplomatic Bag. It embodies important international principles that protect official correspondence and communication between a State and its representatives. The UK strictly adheres to these principles and we expect other states to do the same.

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Published 27 November 2013