HC Deb 23 January 1962 vol 652 cc15-7
9. Mr. Mayhew

asked the Secretary for Technical Co-operation if he will now make a statement on the future development of the overseas information services.

The Joint Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (Mr. Peter Thomas)

I have been asked to reply.

We shall be proposing that expenditure for 1962–63 on these services should, subject to the approval of the House, be rather higher than this current year. This is because risen costs and expansion at home outweigh the £600,000 of savings overseas referred to by my right hon. Friend on 19th December. For detail I must ask the hon. Gentleman to await the publication of the Civil Estimates.

Mr. Mayhew

Is the Minister aware that this represents a welcome retreat from the position taken by the Secretary for Technical Co-operation on his last appearance, no doubt, in response, we hope, to the pressure of the Opposition? Is not the Minister aware that when allowance has been made for costs, this still means a considerable cut in the activities of our overseas information services? Is it not rather a strange moment to cut these services when our influence and reputation abroad have been damaged by the Government's policies?

Mr. Thomas

I do not think the hon. Gentleman is fair. When my right hon. Friend answered the Question on 19th December, he said that the issue of risen costs remained to be decided, and that is a very important part of the Answer I have given. As well as the cuts overseas, to which he has referred, and which are in response to my right hon. and learned Friend's call in July, there have been increases at home.

Mr. Kershaw

Is not my hon. Friend aware that in services like these, sudden changes of policy like a cut one year and an increase the next, are very harmful to these services? Will he do what he can to maintain an even flow?

Mr. Thomas

Certainly. I do not know that one even wishes to keep an even flow. I hope we can continue to expand these services, but that, like so many other desirable developments, depends on economic progress.

Mr. Mayhew

Is the Minister aware that, in practice, certain projects, like those of the British Council, were actually begun and have had to be suddenly closed, with a great loss of good will as a result?

Mr. Thomas

Some of the savings in overseas expenditure announced recently will be met by the Council, partly by postponing things which it intended to do rather than by stopping existing work, but generally the Council will share in next year's increases.