HL Deb 18 May 1981 vol 420 cc722-3

2.40 p.m.

Lord Segal

My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.

The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government what their intentions are concerning the threatened closure of the British Residency and Consulate-General in Alexandria.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Trade (Lord Trefgarne)

My Lords, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office will be reviewing the future of the Consulate-General at Alexandria in the course of the summer. No decision has been taken to close it.

Lord Segal

My Lords, while I thank the Minister at least for that stay of execution, may I ask whether he is aware that British commercial circles in Egypt are strongly opposed to the closure of this consulate? Would the Government adopt a more forward-looking policy in the face of intense German and French competition and consider various alternatives, such as rebuilding the old consulate on the present site and converting part of it into lucrative business premises?

Lord Trefgarne

My Lords, we shall certainly want to examine all the options, but I want to make it clear that a decision to close the consulate has not yet been taken. We shall want to take that decision in the light of all the circumstances and, in particular, the contribution that the consulate makes to our export effort in that part of the world.

Lord Segal

My Lords, would the Government at least see whether they can take as long as possible before coming to a decision on this matter?

Lord Trefgarne

My Lords, it is not always wise to postpone decisions indefinitely. It is our intention to review the position of this particular consulate in the middle of this year, as I said.

Lord Leatherland

My Lords, in view of the Minister's answer that it is not always wise to postpone decisions indefinitely, will he tell us what is going to happen about the promise made at the last general election to abolish rates in this country?

Lord Trefgarne

My Lords, I fancy that does go rather wide of the Question on the Order Paper.