HC Deb 09 April 1986 vol 95 cc160-1
14. Mr. Thurnham

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what are the estimated costs of administering his Department during 1986–87.

Mr. Eggar

The estimated gross running costs of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office during 1986–87 are £369 million for the diplomatic wing and £37 million for the ODA.

Mr. Thurnham

Can my hon. Friend say whether he expects any additional expenses due to increased duties relating to immigration controls and drug trafficking intelligence?

Mr. Eggar

As I think my hon. Friend is aware, we have sent additional staff to posts in the subcontinent and have thus been able to reduce substantially waiting times for first interviews in the subcontinent. The latest figures show that all applicants applying for the first time can expect to be interviewed within 12 months. On the question of drugs, we have put additional resources in London and at overseas posts to try to combat the tremendous drug trafficking problems that we face throughout the world. Both immigration and drugs are good examples of where new demands on the Foreign and Commonwealth Office have been met by the redeployment of existing resources.

Mr. Campbell-Savours

Has the Minister read the Public Accounts Committee reports on Foreign Office estates and the exorbitant prices paid by British diplomats, funded by the Exchequer, for accommodation? Does he intend to intervene in the affair of the sale of a flat in Paris for some £800,000 with a view to making economies, when that flat was replaced by another at a cost of £450,000, so we are informed, with additional expenditure of several hundred thousand pounds on doing up the premises and on legal expenses? Where was the economy in that transaction? Should not the Department be reviewing its position?

Mr. Eggar

With regard to the flat in Paris, the Minister's flat has been disposed of and a replacement flat has been purchased at a cost of about £450,000. That new flat is considerably smaller than the existing flat and will be much cheaper to run. As general policy, the Foreign Office is trying to reduce its reliance on rented property, since there is a considerable real increase in rents, and to increase its reliance on owned property.

Mr. Stokes

Is my hon. Friend aware that the Foreign Office has made great strides since the Falklands war, particularly under the leadership of my right hon. and learned Friend? Furthermore, is he aware that we expect our diplomats to be housed properly? Compared with the cost of some local government, the entire cost of the Foreign Office is cheap at the price.

Mr. Eggar

I agree with my hon. Friend. We are in the process of a further rationalisation of our overseas estates to ensure that we dispose of any surplus properties and use the funds so recycled to purchase more appropriate properties where necessary.

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