Diplomatic Service

Oral Answers to Questions — Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 26th November 1975.

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Photo of Hon. Douglas Hurd Hon. Douglas Hurd , Oxon Mid 12:00 am, 26th November 1975

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what plans he has for reducing the size of Her Majesty's Diplomatic Service in view of the need to economise on public expenditure.

Photo of Mr David Ennals Mr David Ennals , Norwich North

The Diplomatic Service has been reduced in size by more than 12 per cent. since 1965, and a one and a half per cent. cut in expenditure imposed for the coining financial year will further reduce staff.

Photo of Hon. Douglas Hurd Hon. Douglas Hurd , Oxon Mid

I think that everyone accepts that our Foreign Service should continue to be of first-class quality and properly paid and equipped, but will the right hon. Gentleman look at the numbers whom we deploy abroad as compared with other countries of comparable size? Is he happy with a situation in which we have 52 diplomats and Service attaches in Paris whereas the Germans have 31, and 77 in the same categories in Her Majesty's Embassy in Washington whereas the Germans with their much greater resources get by with only 47?

Photo of Mr David Ennals Mr David Ennals , Norwich North

I am glad that the hon. Gentleman referred to the service given by the Diplomatic Service, which I think he recognises as first class. It is true that we have to look at every way in which we can reduce our expenditure without at the same time damaging the service that we have to provide. Increasingly we are providing an export promotion service, which is essential. The hon. Gentleman referred to West Germany, which has almost as many embassies as we have. It is certainly true that they are somewhat fewer in number, but that is partly because the West German Government are not involved in giving as much export support to their firms as we are. Indeed, if Her Majesty's Government were not now giving support to British firms overseas, our export performance would be far worse than it is. The number of French diplomatic service personnel is slightly greater than that of Britain.

Photo of Mr Arthur Lewis Mr Arthur Lewis , Newham North West

Is the Minister aware that we are all being told that there are to be cuts in expenditure? If that is so, my hon. Friends and I would welcome cuts, especially if the £750,000 for a bachelor house were cut to a reasonable sum, such as the subsidy for a house provided for ordinary working-class people, an amount to which the Opposition seem to object.

Photo of Mr David Ennals Mr David Ennals , Norwich North

I assume that when my hon. Friends refers to a bachelor house he is talking about the residence in Paris. That residence was not provided for a bachelor. It so happens that the present ambassador is a bachelor, but that is for him to decide. It is unlikely that future ambassadors will be bachelors. Quite clearly, we must provide reasonable accommodation so that ambassadors can provide the type of service required of them.

Photo of Mr Eldon Griffiths Mr Eldon Griffiths , Bury St Edmunds

Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that in the circumstances it would be better if the whole of the Foreign Service were made up of bachelors?

Photo of Mr David Ennals Mr David Ennals , Norwich North

I should want to choose my bachelors.