HC Deb 30 April 1923 vol 163 cc954-6
33 Major WARING

asked the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (1) whether, seeing that the personnel of the British embassies and legations abroad has increased since 1913 by 70 per cent., he will say what additional functions and duties are performed at these embassies and legations which were not performed in 1913;

(2) whether the addition of two British legations accounts for the increase of 70 per cent. in the personnel of the diplomatic service since 1913; if not, how is the increase accounted for;

(3) whether the personnel of the diplomatic service abroad are paid in sterling or in the currency of the country to which they are accredited; and, if the former, whether the rates of exchange counterbalance any increase in the cost of living?


As the answer is somewhat long, I will circulate it in the OFFICIAL REPORT.


Is it not a fact that more than one of our representatives spend a considerable portion of their private means in keeping up the prestige of the British Empire?

Following is the answer:

The percentage increase referred to in the questions is the increase in the total number of persons employed at His Majesty's Embassies and Legations abroad, including clerical staff. The percentage increase in the actual diplomatic staff is only a little over 10 per cent., the numbers being 115 in 1913 and 127 in 1922.

The functions and duties performed at Embassies and Legations are substantially the same as they were in 1913, but the volume of work involved in their discharge has increased to an extent proportionately much in excess of the increase in personnel, largely due to the present unsettled state of international affairs, arising out of the War. The matter, in its bearing on the Foreign Office, was fully dealt with in a reply given by my predecessor to a question asked by the hon. Member for South Kensington on 4th July, 1921 (OFFICIAL REPORT, volume 144, column 6). The considerations referred to in the first, second and penultimate paragraphs of the answer then given apply with equal force to the work at His Majesty's Embassies and Legations abroad.

The emoluments of the members of His Majesty's Diplomatic Service are on a sterling basis.

The depreciation in the value of currency does not necessarily counterbalance the rise in the cost of living, and the tendency is for the general level of prices in each country to attain the world level, but the state of the exchange and its effect on the cost of living, measured in sterling, are taken into account in fixing the special allowances payable to members of the Diplomatic Service.