In the light of the decision taken by the Coalition Government to create a unified Foreign Service, the Government have reviewed the responsibilities and mutual relations of the Departments principally concerned with the greatly increased effort to develop overseas trade which is now necessary for the country's well-being. Hitherto the Secretary of the Department of Overseas Trade has been responsible jointly to the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs and the President of the Board of Trade. In future he will be known as the Secretary for Overseas Trade and will be directly responsible to the President of the Board of Trade. The Department of Overseas Trade will be integrated with the Board of Trade and all overseas work will be under the direction of the Secretary for Overseas Trade, but the latter will, of course, be subordinate to the President of the Board of Trade, who remains responsible for trade policy both internal and external.
Arrangements are being made for close co-ordination of the work for which the Secretary for Overseas Trade will be responsible with the Treasury, Foreign Office, the Dominions Office, and other Departments concerned with external economic policy. In particular, arrangements will be made for the training of members of the Foreign Service within the Board of Trade, for their making frequent visits to manufacturing and commercial centres in this country, and for rapid communication between them and the Board of Trade on commercial matters. The Trade Commissioner Service, operating in the Empire and Commonwealth will be administered directly by the Board of Trade in consultation as necessary with the Departments concerned with Empire matters.
For the information of the House and the business community, I would like to say that the arrangements now announced are intended to improve the service which the Government can render to overseas trade. The Secretary for Overseas Trade will have under his immediate direction an organisation strengthened for this purpose and the area of his responsibility will be extended. Legislation will be necessary to give affect to these changes and will be laid before Parliament shortly.
Will the Prime Minister take into consideration the great difficulty of getting good staff for the overseas secretariats? Will he continue the wartime practice of having temporary civil servants in these overseas services and make certain that the divorce between the Foreign Office and the Board of Trade does not result in the commercial secretaries being on a lower level than those of the Diplomatic Service?
While I could not answer immediately with regard to the question of temporary civil servants, I entirely agree with the hon. Member in the importance of this service, and there must not be separate grades and a grade below, because it is of vital importance to the whole country.