HC Deb 02 February 1970 vol 795 cc15-6
17 and 18. Mr. Dalyell

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (1) what systematic progress chasing he has now done on the recommendations of the Duncan Committee; and if he will make a statement;

(2) if he will delay moves to create first- and second-class embassies, as a result of the Duncan Committee Report.

30. Mr. Eldon Griffiths

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs when he expects to announce his proposals in regard to the recommendations made by the Duncan Committee.

Mr. George Thomson

The Government's views on the Duncan Report were set out by my right hon. Friend the Lord Privy Seal in another place on 19th November. In deciding on the scale of British representation overseas, the principal test is relevance to current British interests. In the Government's view, the distinctions in the Duncan Report between the so-called "area of concentration" and the rest of the world or between "comprehensive" and "selective" posts are too sharply drawn. A more refined scale is needed. For that reason a post-by-post examination of the application of the Duncan Report on the ground is now under way.—[Vol 305, c. 941–54; Vol. 787, c. 611–7.]

Mr. Dalyell

Is my right hon. Friend aware that some of us are very unhappy about the concept of "area of concentration" as it affects the developing world? Is he further aware that many of us are less than convinced that embassies are suitable as glorified trading posts, and that this work is better done by big firms by direct contract and by small firm by other methods?

Mr. Thomson

If my hon. Friend studies the rather lengthy answer I have just given, he will feel reassured about both these points. It is important to keep the diplomatic service representation under stringent review in relation to changes in foreign policy and Britain's position in the world generally. At the same time, it is important that in many overseas posts in the developing world, in the Commonwealth and elsewhere, we should have the representation adequate to our main interests there.

Sir J. Rodgers

Would the Minister give an assurance that he will not implement even part of the Duncan Report, let alone the whole of it, without full debate in this House?

Mr. Thomson

The question of debate in this House is not a matter for me, but I assure the hon. Gentleman that the report is looked upon by Her Majesty's Government as a whole not as a blue print, not as a specific list of recommendations down which to go and fulfil, but as a set of general guidelines for the organisation of our overseas posts for the 1970s.