BUSINESS QUESTION – SIMON MANN – 7 February 2008

[Mr James Clappison: May we find time for a debate on the position of UK nationals facing trial overseas, with particular reference to the case of Mr. Simon Mann? We should do what we can to ensure that they have access to lawyers, that they are brought before a judge and that they have full access to this country's consular facilities, and when appropriate, if there is a shortage of such facilities, to those of friendly countries such as the United States.

The Leader of the House of Commons (Harriet Harman): I think that that is the current arrangement. The hon. Gentleman is right to pay tribute to the consular facilities in countries where British citizens find themselves in difficulty. They are a lifeline. I am sure that what he proposes is already under way, but I will ask my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary to write to him to confirm that that is the case. ... ]

Dr Julian Lewis: My constituent, Mr Simon Mann, has completed his jail sentence in Zimbabwe but has been transferred by the Mugabe regime to a potentially terrible fate in Equatorial Guinea, despite the fact that his appeals processes have not been completed and despite the assurances given to the British ambassador to Zimbabwe that that would not happen. May we have a statement as soon as possible on the Floor of the House from the Foreign Secretary about what action is going to be taken? Quiet diplomacy has failed and we now have to save Mr. Mann, whatever he has or has not done, from torture and a horrible death in a terrible situation.

[Ms Harman: I will bring the matter to the attention of my Right Hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary and ask him to write to the Hon. Gentleman.

Mr John Whittingdale: I strongly support the requests of my hon. Friends the Members for Hertsmere (Mr. Clappison) and for New Forest, East (Dr Lewis). Whatever Simon Mann may have done, or not done, does the Leader of the House accept that he is entitled to reasonable treatment and fair legal representation? There is real concern that he will get neither of those in Equatorial Guinea. Will she try to arrange an opportunity for the Foreign Secretary to tell us what the Government are doing to help him?

Ms Harman: I will ask my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary, when he writes to the hon. Member for New Forest, East (Dr Lewis), also to send a letter at the same time to set out what the Government are doing in this respect. If there are any further questions to be asked, on the basis of the information that the Foreign Secretary gives to hon. Members, no doubt they can raise the matter again. …

Mr Richard Benyon: In her discussions with the Foreign Secretary to convey the mood of many Members of the House concerning the plight of Simon Mann, will the Leader of the House also tell him that we would like to know what steps the Government are taking to bring in ambassadors or representatives from Equatorial Guinea, to put pressure on EU member states to get behind this case, and to ensure, as we did with those held at Guantanamo Bay, that any citizen – whatever they have or have not done – has the right to a free and fair trial and all rights under the law?

Ms Harman: I think we are all concerned that people are entitled to their human rights wherever they are, and that the British Government stands up for human rights internationally and, particularly, looks after British citizens whose rights are being breached by foreign Governments. As I mentioned earlier, this is a matter for our consular services, and I will draw the hon. Gentleman's comments to the attention of my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary.

Mr Henry Bellingham: Further to those questions, surely we need more than just a letter; we need a statement on Simon Mann. He has two sons serving in the British Army. The point is that the Equatorial Guinea regime has kidnapped an EU citizen wholly unlawfully; there is no legal basis on which he can be held.

Ms Harman: If that is the case, it is certainly a question for our consular representatives to take forward. It is often the case that, working together with other EU partners, we can be more effective than we can acting as a country on our own. …

Mr Mark Harper: In support of my hon. Friend the Member for New Forest, East (Dr. Lewis) in respect of his constituent Simon Mann and his wife and children, may I ask the Leader of House to implore the Foreign Secretary to talk to our allies, particularly the United States which is so influential in this area? Will she do so as a matter of urgency, because if she does not, it may be too late?

Ms Harman: My suggestion to hon. Members who have raised this issue is to ask the Foreign Secretary for a meeting. I will tell my right hon. Friend to expect a request for such a meeting from hon. Members who have expressed interest in the case.]