HC Deb 30 July 1997 vol 299 cc287-8W
Mr. McNulty

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement about increasing the number of business men on short-term attachments at posts overseas. [11980]

Mr. Robin Cook

We made a commitment in our business manifesto to improve the focus of our efforts to back British business selling abroad, to enhance the co-ordination of government trade and investment promotion, and to promote business secondments with this Department.

I am pleased to announce that we have secured a commitment from a number of leading companies to loan members of their staff to this Department to work on specific promotions or projects overseas for periods of a few months. These people will provide valuable expertise to support and promote the activities of the commercial sections of our overseas posts. Each attachment will have a specific focus, such as privatisation projects, inward investment promotion, management of commercial promotions, marketing of UK financial services, or identifying market opportunities in specific sectors.

I welcome the whole-hearted support for this initiative of the Confederation of British Industry. It has encouraged a number of members to participate from the outset, including British Airways, BOC, ICL, Wimpey, British Aerospace, BT, British Steel, British Nuclear Fuels Ltd., BUPA, Hong Kong and Shanghai Banking Corporation and Glaxo Wellcome. Other companies have expressed a strong interest and I am confident that more attachments will be arranged in the coming months.

This is a commitment to a rolling programme of attachments to strengthen our partnership with business. In the longer term, we hope that companies will be able to second suitable staff to serve as part of the established commercial teams in overseas posts, and in return provide opportunities for this Department's staff to hone their business skills by hosting secondments.