HC Deb 07 December 1977 vol 940 cc1367-8
7. Mr. Goodlad

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent representations he has received on the report of the Central Policy Review Staff on overseas representation.

Dr. Owen

I have received representations and advice from the institutions reviewed in the report and from their staffs and from a large number of individuals and other bodies in the fields of industry, commerce, the academic world, the arts, and the Church, as well as from members of the public, both in this country and overseas. A notable contribution to the continuing debate was made in another place on 23rd November.

Mr. Goodlad

Is the Secretary of State aware of the concern that is felt because some of the much-criticised recommendations in that report are already being put into effect? Can he say which of those recommendations are being put into effect? Is it the Government's intention to interfere with the overseas service of the BBC?

Dr. Owen

We have deliberately not made decisions on the report, which is now being considered by the Defence and External Affairs Sub-Committee. We are listening to all views on this matter. One of the recommendations, to which I think the hon. Member referred, is one of the issues that are being examined. I am not yet in a position to announce any decision. I want to take account of the Sub-Committee's view before I make a decision.

Mr. Dalyell

Is my right hon. Friend in a position to confirm the figure in the report which shows that its preferred solution would be about 54 per cent. more expensive than the existing set-up?

Dr. Owen

I think that my hon. Friend is referring to one aspect of the report which would have a consequential cost because of the merging of the separate Diplomatic Service and the Home Service in the initial period. That is an aspect that must be considered.

Sir Anthony Royle

Is the Secretary of State aware that this whole exercise has been a total waste of public money? Is he aware of any other country that has a more efficient or effective Diplomatic Service than our own?

Dr. Owen

No, I am not aware of such a country.

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