William Hague, the British Foreign Secretary, recently visited Japan. Unlike his colleague, Minister of State Hugo Swire on his visit back in January this year (conducted before the Diet signed up to the Hague Convention), he did not raise the issue of child abduction, according to news reports – and there is nothing on the Foreign Office website to suggest otherwise. This does seem to have been a wasted opportunity – and one that seems to be an intentional one. It seems, without more, that the Foreign Office regard the Diet as having signed up to the Hague Convention (I will post again about this shortly) as the end of the matter. It is anything but. Japan’s actions, such as they are, do not begin to address those cases such as mine and others that pre-date Japan joining the Hague Convention and there is also a significant question mark over how well, if at all, the Convention will be implemented in Japan.
Hague is a man that I greatly admire and he is a great and capable statesman. He was leader of the Opposition between 1997 and 2001. Had he still been at the helm of the Conservative party in 2010, it might well have won an outright majority in the election of that year. I met him towards the end of the 1979-1997 Conservative government, when I was at university, at which time he held a junior Cabinet portfolio. It is a pity that Foreign Office officials chose not to brief him to raise this issue in his dealings with the various Japanese politicians that he met earlier this month.
The Foreign Office regularly issues press releases and the like condemning Japan’s use of the death penalty for those convicted of criminal offences to which that penalty applies. Yet that is a sovereign issue for Japan alone and one that does not (often if at all) involve British nationals/interests. The issue of child abduction, on the other hand, is not an issue for Japan alone as it involves British children and British left behind parents and yet the Foreign Office has seemingly downgraded it as an issue – or does not now regard it as an issue at all. That cannot be right. The Foreign Office must get its priorities in order.