HC Deb 02 February 1994 vol 236 cc873-4
2. Mrs. Gorman

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs in which newly formed states in eastern Europe he proposes to set up embassies; and what is the budget for this in the next financial year.

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Mr. Douglas Hogg)

We have no plans at present to open further missions in the region, but this is kept under review. Since the end of the cold war, the Foreign Office has opened 13 new embassies in the former Soviet Union and eastern Europe as well as a consultate-general in St. Petersburg. The cost in the next financial year is expected to be about £9.5 million.

Mrs. Gorman

Given the volatile and possibly ephemeral nature of many of the newly emerging states from the former Soviet Union, should not we be using public facilities such as hotels for mounting our diplomatic mission or sharing with our European partners? Is he aware that in Kiev, which I recently visited, we have acquired two large and elaborate buildings, one of which is being equipped to the standards to which I suppose the diplomatic staff are accustomed? When I inquired what the other building was for, I was told that it was to be done up so that, should the Secretary of State pass through, he would have somewhere to stay because he could not possibly use the hotels in Kiev.

Mr. Hogg

My hon. Friend is obviously right to urge on the Foreign Office the need to be as cost effective as possible. On the matter of sharing with our European partners, I had not expected that question from my hon. Friend, but the answer is that we do co-locate, for example both in Minsk and Almaty. Neither had I expected my hon. Friend's suggestion about using hotels, but we do use them, for example in Baku. In Kiev, there are two buildings in Desyatinna street, one is No. 9 and the other is No. 12. We acquired No. 12 because No. 9 is held on a very short lease. We shall certainly make the most cost-effective use of No. 12, including co-location with other European countries, if that is what we want, but we shall give serious attention to as and when, depending upon the needs of other posts in the region.

Mr. Rogers

But, seriously, substantial issues are involved. When the Government are thinking of opening diplomatic missions, will they consider changing their diplomatic missions staffing policy? In the past year they have been getting rid of the specialists in trade, industry and technology who were helping to develop our contacts in those countries and replacing them with public relations staff. Why do the Government not encourage British industry to invest in eastern Europe?

Mr. Hogg

You will not be surprised to hear, Madam Speaker, that the hon. Gentleman is simply wrong. We have placed enormous emphasis on the commercial policies of the Foreign Office. One reason for opening diplomatic missions in Almaty, Tashkent and Baku was the commercial opportunities there, and we shall continue to use every method at our disposal to promote British industry in those countries and elsewhere.