HC Deb 17 April 1967 vol 745 cc67-8
9. Mr. Marquand

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs when he expects to receive Sir Harold Beeley's Report on overseas information services.

28. Mr. R. C. Mitchell

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what total expenditure is envisaged on overseas information services during the current and the next three financial years.

38. Mr. Boston

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if he will make a statement about the inquiry into Great Britain's overseas information services being carried out by Sir Harold Beeley.

Mr. William Rodgers

We hope to receive Sir Harold Beeley's Report, following his review of the information services, next month. This will enable us to consider the programme for future years. The provision proposed for overseas information services for the coming year is £28,249,000.

Mr. Marquand

Does my hon. Friend agree that the money we spend on overseas information services is almost certainly for more cost-effective in terms of value to this country than any other form of overseas Government expenditure? Can he therefore give an assurance that there will be no cut in the amount expended on overseas information without our having a very full debate in the House? Further, can he say whether the Beeley Report will be published?

Mr. Rodgers

I agree that we get very good value for the money we spend on overseas information, but I am sure that we should await Sir Harold Beeley's Report before making any decisions. In reply to my hon. Friend the Member for Putney (Mr. Hugh Jenkins), I indicated that we were bearing in mind the possibility of publishing the Report.

Mr. R. C. Mitchell

Has my hon. Friend in mind any special areas on which he intends to concentrate for developing our overseas information services?

Mr. Rodgers

I do not think that at this stage I can indicate what our own view is. As I say, we must see Sir Harold Beeley's Report first.

Mr. Dodds-Parker

Will the Under-Secretary of State realise that there will be strong support on all sides for maintaining our overseas information services and that there are other candidates, such as Government hospitality, for a cut rather than our overseas information services?

Mr. Rodgers

As I have said, the information services are most important and we certainly wish to maintain and expand them as far as possible.

Lord Balniel

Has there not already been a reduction in Government overseas information services, and does not this entail diminution of British influence? Is not this aggravated by the fact that there has already been a reduction in the overseas aid programme? Will the Government consider the two problems together?

Mr. Rodgers

These two problems do fit together and are part of the same sort of story, but in asking Sir Harold Beeley to review the services we had in mind that we have to take a broad look at them and there are services in which perhaps we could look for an improvement.