HC Deb 17 December 1964 vol 704 cc560-2
Q2. Sir G. de Freitas

asked the Prime Minister whether, in order to emphasise the importance of the trade promotional work of the external services, he will consider designating the new combined service Her Majesty's Diplomatic and Commercial Service instead of Her Majesty's Diplomatic Service, as is proposed.

The Prime Minister

No, Sir. The title "Her Majesty's Diplomatic Service" was chosen after careful thought by the Plowden Committee. It has the merit of being brief and convenient. The title suggested by my hon. Friend might imply that commercial work is not an integral part of our diplomacy.

Sir G. de Freitas

Is my right hon. Friend aware that although experienced representatives of large firms like I.C.I. and Barclays D.C.O. know how to interpret "diplomatic", many small business firms and their representatives abroad do not realise the expert advice available to them in high commissions and embassies abroad? Would not emphasis on the word "commercial" encourage these representatives to make greater use of the facilities available to them?

The Prime Minister

My hon. Friend has practical experience of the valuable work of what has hitherto been called the Trade Commission Service. From my experience some years ago and again on my recent visit to Canada when I met the trade commissioner there, I very much agree that there is not enough response by a large number of British industrialists to the services provided or even, as in one case about which I heard, pressure from the Trade Commission Service to tender for a valuable order and not a single tender could be obtained from any British firm.

Mr. Grimond

Is the Prime Minister aware that, while this particular proposal may not appeal to him, there is a widespread desire that our Diplomatic Service should play a more active part in the promotion of exports and that various schemes to promote them have been put forward on both sides of the House? Will he consider making a statement on the Government's intentions in this matter in due course?

The Prime Minister

We intend to make a statement about further ways in which we can help the export trade. including the point raised by the right hon. Gentleman. I think that the decision of the late Government, following the Plowden Committee's Report, continues a trend which has been going on over suc- cessive Governments. Under both Labour and Conservative Governments, we have seen some of our senior trade people rise to the rank of ambassador and be fully integrated with the Diplomatic Service, as it then was. This is formalising an informal arrangement which existed before.

Sir C. Mott-Radclyffe

While the importance of the commercial side of the Diplomatic Service was rightly stressed by the Plowden Committee, none the less fundamentally it is the policies of the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the President of the Board of Trade which, broadly speaking, make or mar the task of any exporter.

The Prime Minister

I think that their services are obviously extremely important, but so is the response of British firms to the markets which are available to us and the services of the Trade Commission Service in bringing these openings to their attention. It is not purely the case that my right hon. Friends can help in this matter, but some right hon. Gentlemen opposite might stop hindering.