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My Lords, I am delighted to follow the noble Baroness, Lady Quin. We are all in her debt for obtaining this debate and for the measured and sensible way in which she introduced it. I associate myself entirely with what she said about the leak; “despicable” is the right word to use. It was a despicable act, designed to embarrass and cause damage to a particular cause at a very sensitive time. It is appalling that leaking on an ambassador who is merely doing his diligent best to fulfil his duty should be in any way rewarded. I also agree with what the noble Baroness said about those who publish. I yield to no one in my support for a free press, but it must also be a responsible press that has regard to the national interest. To cause a potential rift between two major allies can never be in the national interest.
We are all indebted, not just to Sir Kim for being an exemplary ambassador but to all those who have served this country professionally and sensibly in the Diplomatic and the Civil Service. I deplore the way in which, over the last few years, so many professional diplomats and civil servants have been effectively sidelined by a proliferation of spads. Of course there is a role for the special adviser, but a proliferation of spads can only damage the standing of the Diplomatic and the Civil Service, which have done so much to uphold our country’s interests over so many years.
I also agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Quin, in hoping that the new Prime Minister—to whom I wish success, for all our sakes—will recognise that it would be a blow to the professionalism of the Diplomatic Service if a political appointee was sent to Washington. It is very important that a professional diplomat of Sir Kim’s stature and accomplishment should be replaced by someone similar. There are many men and women in our Diplomatic Service who would be a candidate for such an extremely important and sensitive role. We have a new Foreign Secretary; he is a very political one, but I hope that he will heed this. In passing, I pay tribute to Jeremy Hunt. I regret his going. He conducted himself as a Foreign Secretary should and I wish him every success in the future. I sincerely hope that my noble friend Lord Ahmad will remain in his present post; since he took it up, he has served with great diligence and accomplishment.
It is sad to have to debate this issue on the last day before we rise for the Summer Recess, but it is important. The reputation of our Diplomatic Service is at stake and I very much hope that the new Foreign Secretary—whom I congratulate—will recognise the strength of feeling on this subject in all parts of this House.