Diplomatic Locations

Oral Answers to Questions — Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs – in the House of Commons at 2:16 pm on 7th June 1995.

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Photo of Mr Harry Greenway Mr Harry Greenway , Ealing North 2:16 pm, 7th June 1995

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs how many new diplomatic locations have been opened by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in each of the past three years; at what cost to public funds; how many similar locations have been closed; at what saving to public funds; and if he will make a statement. [25449]

Photo of Hon. Douglas Hurd Hon. Douglas Hurd , Witney

I have deposited the information requested by the hon. Gentleman in the Library. Our interests are global and our overseas representation needs to match them. We must respond quickly and flexibly to changing opportunities and to challenges. This year we plan to close three posts and open 15 new ones. The new posts are concentrated in countries where new export opportunities for British companies are opening up.

Photo of Mr Harry Greenway Mr Harry Greenway , Ealing North

I welcome my right hon. Friend's reply that 15 new trading opportunities have been opened up for the United Kingdom. Is he satisfied that the Treasury is prepared to respond quickly enough with the money required to open new diplomatic missions abroad, especially where there is a possibility of new trade, as has occurred in recent years in eastern Europe, including Russia and Poland?

Photo of Hon. Douglas Hurd Hon. Douglas Hurd , Witney

No, indeed. The Treasury would not be doing its job if I felt comfortable about that. The Treasury makes us sweat to open new posts. For instance, we have plans to abolish more than 500 support staff over three years. Such savings and reviews and constant pressure for greater efficiency, to which my right hon. and learned Friend the Minister of State always refers, are what we rightly have to implement and maintain so as to expand overseas and help our exports in the way that I have announced.

Photo of Andrew MacKinlay Andrew MacKinlay , Thurrock

Does the Secretary of State have an opinion about the need for a consulate in Krakow, where many other principal European players have consular services? Bearing in mind its important geographical position in central Europe, will he have regard to the desire both by British people and by Polish people to see some significant representation in that important southern Polish city?

Photo of Hon. Douglas Hurd Hon. Douglas Hurd , Witney

Let me look into that. I have not studied that, although I notice that at least 10 of the posts that we have opened in the past three years are in central and eastern Europe, for the kind of reasons that the hon. Gentleman gives.

Photo of Mr John Marshall Mr John Marshall , Hendon South

Does my right hon. Friend think that redeployment is going quickly enough? There is a suspicion that we have perhaps too many diplomats in lovely cities such as Paris and not enough in Poland and eastern and central Europe.

Photo of Hon. Douglas Hurd Hon. Douglas Hurd , Witney

We have cut Paris by, I think, 10 per cent. in recent years. With a new French Government and new personalities, as is the case now, when it is important to get to grips with them and the issues quickly, one sees vividly the need to have trained and expert and professional staff in a place such as Paris.