Briefing notes from the House of Commons
Library to Chris Ruane MP
You asked whether the United States had ever
had a consulate in Wales, and also whether there was any indication
that other countries were planning to set up consulates in Wales
or Scotland because of devolution. This was in the context of
an approach by the National Welsh American Foundation, who want
to press for a US consulate once the Welsh Assembly is set up.
I have found out from the American Embassy that
there were several American consulates in Wales from the nineteenth
century onwards: they did not have precise details of dates, but
had found references to the existence of consulates, during the
nineteenth century at least, in Beaumaris, Carmarthen, Llanelli,
Milford Haven and Newport as well as in Swansea (until the 1940s
or 1950s) and Cardiff (until about 1963). I have not been able
to find any press reports indicating why the consulate in Cardiff
was closed, but possibly the Foundation could pursue this through
the local history library there.
It may be of interest to know that the US consulates
in Belfast and Edinburgh celebrated their 200th hundredth anniversaries
in 1996 and 1998, respectively. The enclosed texts from the US
Embassy website provide some historical background on the establishment
of the two consulates:
20 May 1996: the Belfast consulate:
part of a long tradition;
The Belfast Bicentennial speech,
20 May 1996, by Ambassador William J Crowe Jnr;
The Consulate General of the United
States of America in Scotland, History 1798-1998.
You will see from the last item that US consulates
were established during the nineteenth century in Glasgow, Dundee
and Dunfermline, as well as in Edinburgh and in addition there
were consular agencies in Aberdeen, Greenock, Kirkcaldy, Galashiels
and Troon. The consular agencies had all been closed by 1922 and
the consulate in Dunfermline closed in 1925. The consulates in
Dundee and Glasgow lasted until 1940 and 1965 respectively, and
it looks as if the pattern in Wales may have been very similar.
It is also mentioned that the Edinburgh consulate was threatened
with closure in 1995 because of cuts in the State Department budget,
but subsequently won a reprieve.
As you already know, the Irish Republic set
up a consulate in Cardiff, and also in Edinburgh, in October 1998.
The enclosed press articles (Irish Times, 11 June and 29
October 1998 and 27 February 1999 (not printed)) make it clear
that these developments were related to the devolution process.
I have been unable to find any references to other countries which
are planning to set up consulates in Cardiff or Edinburgh because
30 April 1999
Further to my letter of 30 April on this subject,
I have now received a reply from the Protocol Department at the
Foreign and Commonwealth Office, which deals with the accreditation
of consulates in this country.
The response I have received reads as follows:
I am afraid we have no information about countries
which may or intend to set up consulates in either Wales of Scotland
because of devolution. What I can tell you, however, is that the
following countries have set up honorary consulates in Edinburgh
during the last 12 months: Brazil, Lithuania, Czech Republic and
Mongolia. I have no information to suggest that any countries
are setting up honorary consulates in Wales.
Honorary consuls are non-career officials residing
in the district for which they are to administer the consular
post. They are often businessmen who carry out their consular
functions on a part-time basis. Most states appoint consuls of
both kinds, according to the deemed importance of the consular
district, career consuls being appointed for the more important
In the context of the enquiry you are dealing
with, it may be useful to note that the principal functions of
consuls generally are "promotion of commerce and industry,
supervision of navigation, protection, and notarial functions".
The enclosed extract for Oppenheim's international law
expands on these functions. (not printed)
The official at the FCO with whom I was in contact
about this has undertaken to let me know if and when he receives
any further information on this subject and if anything comes
through I will, of course, contact you again.
6 May 1999
1 Oppenheim's international law, 9 ed, 1992,
p 1135. Back
Ibid, p 1139. Back