HC Deb 10 March 1976 vol 907 cc402-4
7. Mr. Luard

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what are the annual costs, including salaries, rents and indirect costs, of maintaining Her Majesty's missions in Washington, Paris, Tokyo, Lusaka, Maseru and San Salvador.

Mr. Ennals

As the reply is detailed I shall, with permission, circulate it in the Official Report. The annual costs of diplomatic and seconded staff range from £2.66 million for Washington to £70,000 for San Salvador. The costs of other United Kingdom-based staff are borne on the Votes of their parent Departments.

Mr. Luard

Does that reply not show that it is possible to maintain a small post in a small developing country for a tiny fraction of the cost of a large embassy in a large country? Is it not important that in the review that the CPRS is at present undertaking it should bear in mind the enormous value to Britain of having at least some presence, even if it is only two or three people, in a small country, compared with having to be represented from an embassy in a neighbouring country?

Mr. Ennals

I am sure that in its review the CPRS will take very seriously my hon. Friend's point, with which I have a great deal of sympathy. In so far as there happen to be further cuts in manpower in the Diplomatic Service, I think that we would all wish to avoid further closures of missions. I cannot say what will be the outcome of the review, although I am certain that the point of view put forward by my hon. Friend will be taken very seriously.

Mr. Marten

Surely, if the Common Market succeeds in Mr. Tindemans' aim in becoming a federal State, we shall need only one embassy to represent all nine member countries. That is the logic of this matter. We could cut down Foreign Office staff by at least three-quarters.

Mr. Ennals

The CPRS review is not necessarily a review for all time, and I should have thought that the hypothetical situation described by the hon. Gentleman was a very long way off.

Mr. Spearing

The Minister has expressed sympathy with the view put forward by my hon. Friend the Member for Oxford (Mr. Luard), but does he not recall that Her Majesty's Government have already closed the Madagascar Embassy, which cost a relatively small sum? Will he now say whether the review will include the possibility of reinstating that and similar missions in

The costs falling on the Diplomatic and Consular Services Vote in 1974–75 are estimated to be as follows:

Posts Salaries Allowances Rents Other Costs Total
£ thousand £ million
(a) 533 521 376 407 2.66
(b) 823
(a) 332 374 294 337 1.90
(b) 563
(a) 252 285 279 61 1.23
(b) 353
(a) 81 89 6 15 0.27
(b) 78
(a) 28.6 21.4 0.2 19.5 0.08
(b) 10.3
San Salvador—
(a) 18.8 14.9 7.7 9.9 0.07
(b) 18.7


(a) United Kingdom-based staff.

(b) Locally-engaged staff.

These figures cover the costs of United Kingdom-based and locally-engaged Diplomatic Service staff in the posts concerned and of officers seconded to the Diplomatic Service from other Whitehall Departments. They reflect only a proportion of the total cost to Her Majesty's Government of the larger missions, as they exclude the costs of specialist officers borne on the votes of their parent Departments.

In Washington, for example, the break-down of staff is as follows:

Diplomatic Service
(i) United Kingdom-based (including seconded staff) 132
(ii) Locally-engaged 197
Other Departments
(iii) United Kingdom-based staff 190
(iv) Locally-engaged staff supporting (iii) above 95

The figures also exclude the cost of offices and of those residential properties which are accounted for by the Department of the Environment.

the circumstances that my hon. Friend has described?

Mr. Ennals

It would not be right for me to close the door on any opportunity that the CPRS has of looking at our overseas representation. My hon. Friend will be glad to know that, although the embassy in Tananarive has been closed, it has been found possible to retain not only an honorary consul but a permanent member of the embassy staff, who will be able to give active help with our business contacts.

Mr. Stokes

Is the Minister aware that in 1914, at the time of this country's greatness, we had only six ambassadors and only small staffs? While casting no reflection on present staffs, may I ask why we need so many?

Mr. Ennals

I do not recall that period but I am aware of the situation that existed then. There are rather more independent countries now than there were then. It was a little easier to govern from Whitehall than it is now.

Following is the information: