HC Deb 26 March 1969 vol 780 cc317-9W
Mr. Robert Howarth

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what has been the effect on the structure of the Diplomatic Service of the amalgamation of the Foreign Office and Commonwealth Office.

Mr. M. Stewart

The merger of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office has so far led directly to the saving of one hundred posts at home. These savings however, are additional to a total of 398 posts at home which have been saved between the creation of the combined Diplomatic Service in January, 1965 and the announcement of the proposed merger of the Foreign and Commonwealth Offices in March, 1968. The Review of Overseas Representation which is at present being conducted by the Committee under the Chairmanship of Sir Val Duncan will also affect the future structure of the Service.

By early 1970 the total reduction of the number of posts in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in the three most senior grades is expected to be approximately 30 per cent. compared with 1965. This sudden contraction has accentuated a promotion blockage that already existed in the middle administrative grades of the Service resulting from the reorganisations and recruitment policy during and immediately after the last war.

To restore the balance and to give younger people the necessary responsibilities and opportunities in the higher posts in the Service, it will be necessary to retire prematurely a substantial number of officers in senior posts during the course of 1969 and 1970 under the provisions of the Superannuation Act, 1965. The officers concerned are persons of wide experience and proved ability who in normal circumstances would have expected to continue in the Service until the age of 60. About 17 per cent. of the present members of Grades 1–3 of the Diplomatic Service are affected, of whom the majority are serving as Ambassadors or High Commissioners.

The premature retirement of so many experienced senior officers is a high price to pay for rationalising the structure of the Diplomatic Service; but it is necessary, both in the interests of the Service and in the national interests. It is also right that those officers whose careers are being terminated for the good of the Service as a whole, and for no other reason, should be fairly treated.

Accordingly it has been decided that wherever possible the officers now being retired should be given 12 months notice. In addition to any immediate pension there will also be a short period of resettlement leave for those serving abroad and the boarding school allowances for children will be continued for a short time in appropriate cases.