HC Deb 08 December 1947 vol 445 cc755-6
1. Mr. William Shepherd

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs the number of persons employed at Embassies and Legations engaged on information services; and the total annual cost of such work.

The Minister of State (Mr. McNeil)

The number of persons employed at Embassies and Legations and engaged on Information Services is 1,235, made up of 236 United Kingdom based and 999 locally engaged. In addition, there are 1,088 persons employed at Consulates and other Posts, of whom 120 are United Kingdom based and 968 locally engaged. The total of 1,967 locally engaged staff includes part-time workers and 530 employed on subsidiary duties, on messenger, cleaning and similar duties. The total annual cost of such work at overseas Posts, including operational charges, is £1,470,062.

Mr. Shepherd

Does not this figure show an enormous increase in the charges compared with before the war, and is the Minister satisfied that we are really getting value for this money expended overseas?

Mr. McNeil

I cannot answer that without information about the charges before the war. I should imagine they would show an increase—almost all costs have. This year we have had a reduction of some £447,000. I do not say that the cutting has ended there, but overall our information services give Great Britain a good return.

Mr. Vernon Bartlett

Will the right hon. Gentleman bear in mind that most of these officials are doing an extraordinarily valuable job of work, and are working very hard indeed, and that it is important that the British point of view should be put before the world?

Mr. McNeil

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his comment, particularly as his point is so apt, and he so qualified to make it.

Mr. Tolley

Can the right hon. Gentleman state how the figures compare with the figures before the war?

Mr. McNeil

Not without notice.

Mr. Anthony Nutting

Can the Minister tell us what amount in these figures represents an increase in pay, and what represents an increase due to taking on increased staff, compared with before the war?

Mr. McNeil

I am sorry, but my mental arithmetic does not extend to that.

Mr. Shepherd

Can the Minister state whether this expenditure is additional to the expenditure incurred overseas by the British Council?

Mr. McNeil

I should imagine so.