Oral Answers to Questions — Eastern Europe (Embassy Staff)

– in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 17th April 1967.

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Photo of Mr Jack Ashley Mr Jack Ashley , Stoke-on-Trent South 12:00 am, 17th April 1967

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what steps he proposes to improve the staff of embassies in Eastern Europe to enable them to play a more active part in promoting East-West trade.

Photo of Mr George Thomson Mr George Thomson , Dundee East

The efficiency and staffing of all commercial posts is kept under constant review, but I am satisfied that the staff at our embassies in Eastern Europe is generally adequate in both quality and numbers, and is playing a very active part in our export drive.

Photo of Mr Jack Ashley Mr Jack Ashley , Stoke-on-Trent South

Would the Minister accept that this is the right psychological moment for bridge-building between Eastern and Western Europe? Does he regard this Improvement in embassy staffs as only the first stage of a general improvement in relations with Eastern Europe?

Photo of Mr George Thomson Mr George Thomson , Dundee East

Yes. I am going to Prague on Wednesday and I hope to add at least a brick or two to the bridge mentioned by my hon. Friend.

Photo of Sir Henry Legge-Bourke Sir Henry Legge-Bourke , Isle of Ely

Could the right hon. Gentleman say whether the Government are now reconsidering the number of scientific attachés in our overseas embassies in the light of the increasing concern shown on both sides of this House about the present limitation to the number to six only?

Photo of Mr George Thomson Mr George Thomson , Dundee East

We attach great importance to the work done by scientific attaches, but that is another question. If the hon. Gentleman cares to put it on the Order Paper, I shall be glad to answer it.

Photo of Mr Ian Mikardo Mr Ian Mikardo , Poplar

Is my right hon. Friend aware that while one must always seek improvement in fact the work of the staff of the commercial sections of our embassies in Eastern Europe has shown an enormous improvement in recent years?

Photo of Mr George Thomson Mr George Thomson , Dundee East

I am much obliged to my hon. Friend for that tribute which I know comes from experience in this field. It is borne out by figures. The value of exports to Eastern Europe increased by 30 per cent. in the last five years and in the last two years by 50 per cent.