Select Committee on Foreign Affairs Twelfth Report



(a)We recommend that the FCO ensure that financial information given prominence in future Annual Reports is accessible to the lay reader (paragraph 8).
(b)We recommend that the FCO re-examine the format in which it presents financial information, to ensure maximum readability and accessibility (paragraph 9).
(c)We recommend that the FCO ensure that in future Annual Reports there is adequate explanation of the basis on which financial information is calculated (paragraph 10).
(d)We recommend that the FCO take greater care to ensure that future Annual Reports contain correct financial information before going to press (paragraph 11).
(e)We recommend that the FCO seek, within the boundaries of Treasury guidance, to include in future Annual Reports the most up-to-date information that it holds on spending by posts overseas and on the FCO budget broken down by command (paragraph 13).
(f)We recommend that the next Annual Report should contain a comparison between the FCO's public service agreement targets as agreed in 2000 and in 2002, and that similar comparisons should appear in subsequent Reports (paragraph 15).
(g)We recommend that the FCO should publicise, in future Annual Reports and elsewhere, the benefits that it has achieved at relatively little financial cost, and that it should also be prepared to admit where projects have failed to produce the benefits expected of them, with an explanation of why this was the case (paragraph 17).
(h)We recommend that the Government, in its response to this Report, should set out what progress has been made in expediting the FCO's response time to the need to establish new diplomatic premises overseas, with particular reference to the use of containers (paragraph 22).
(i)We recommend that consideration be given to establishing a register of former diplomatic staff prepared to be brought out of retirement for limited periods to respond to crises such as that in Afghanistan (paragraph 24).
(j)We recommend that the next Annual Report should report progress on the development of systems for responding to international crises and for the rapid deployment of serving or retired diplomatic, consular or other personnel in response to changing circumstances worldwide (paragraph 27).
(k)We recommend that the Government set out in its response to this Report how the FCO has been funding its increased security costs since 11 September, to what extent these costs have been met by new money, and to what extent by scaling back other activities (paragraph 30).
(l)We recommend that the FCO include in its response to this Report updated information on its ability to provide secure communications facilities to its diplomatic staff, wherever they may be in the world (paragraph 32).
(m)We conclude that the FCO is right to consider whether there are ways in which it "can deploy [its] network of posts overseas more flexibly or more efficiently", but that it must guard against any risk that attempts to meet efficiency targets set by the Treasury might jeopardise the effectiveness of its diplomatic and consular activities (paragraph 38).
(n)We conclude that the objectives and targets set out in the 2002 Spending Review reflect with relative accuracy the work and aims of the FCO, but that it is hard to envisage how the FCO's contribution to achieving (or failing to achieve) these aims can be realistically assessed (paragraph 40).
(o)We recommend that the next Annual Report should explain how the FCO has contributed to the reduction of opium production in Afghanistan over the previous twelve months (paragraph 41).
(p)We recommend that the Government clarify in its response to this Report how the Global Opportunities Fund will work, the sorts of projects that it will sponsor, how applications for funding will be made, and what differentiates the GOF from pre-existing sources of project funding (paragraph 42).
(q)We recommend that the Government set out in its response to this Report how the plans of the BBC World Service and British Council have been affected by the results of the 2002 Spending Review (paragraph 46).
(r)We recommend that the Government, in its response to this Report, provide a full statement on its intentions regarding public funding of BBC World Television (paragraph 48).
(s)We recommend that the Government in its response to this Report set out what progress there has been towards identifying those areas in which efficiency savings can be made, what these savings consist of, whether the efficiency savings identified will meet the agreed target of 2.5 per cent of current expenditure, and, if not, how the target will be met in full (paragraph 52).
(t)We recommend that the Government ensure that the contribution of a building or location to the effectiveness of British diplomacy is given paramount importance when deciding its future (paragraph 56).
(u)We recommend that the Government explain in its response to this Report what provision it is making to fund future information and communications technology developments, other than through the sale of real estate (paragraph 58).
(v)We recommend that the Government bear in mind when deciding whether to dispose of a property the cost that will be incurred by fitting out any replacement to the required standards of health and safety and security (paragraph 61).
(w)We recommend that in its response to this Report the FCO provide a full explanation as to why air conditioning was omitted from the new Berlin embassy specifications and what has been the experience of both staff and other users of this space, during hot weather, since the building was first opened (paragraph 63).
(x)We conclude that the successful introduction of the Prism Programme on schedule and to cost is crucial to the modernisation of the FCO's management structures, all the more so because success will depend on staff throughout the organisation being trained in and adapting to new processes and working practices (paragraph 66).
(y)We recommend that the Government explain in its response to this Report why it has failed to comment on the fact that one of its major PFI contract partners has filed for provisional liquidation (paragraph 68).
(z)We recommend that the Government set out in its response to this Report what risk, if any, the failure of Global Crossing would pose to the Foreign Office Telecommunications Network. We further recommend that the Government provide us in confidence with details of the contingency arrangements in place, and of any liability that the FCO might have, in the event that Global Crossing should fail, as well as the estimated cost of replacing the service provided by Global Crossing, details of how the due diligence process was carried out by the FCO and by any external advisors prior to the contract with Global Crossing being concluded, and the conclusions of any such due diligence reports (paragraph 69).
(aa)We recommend that more detailed information on corporate sponsorship appear in future FCO Annual Reports (paragraph 70).
(bb)We recommend that the Government in its response to this Report explain how the corporate sponsorship agreement for VIP transport meets the FCO's sponsorship guidelines (paragraph 72).
(cc)We conclude that the gender profile within the FCO, while better than it was, can be further improved, and we recommend that barriers to the recruitment of women on merit be identified and eliminated (paragraph 74).
(dd)We recommend that the Government explain in its response to this Report what steps it is taking to encourage people from the ethnic minorities to apply for positions within the FCO, and furthermore what steps it takes to ensure that ethnic minority candidates are not disadvantaged by selection procedures (paragraph 76).
(ee) We recommend that the Government do its utmost to ensure through practical steps that locally engaged staff, wherever they are based, are employed and managed in accordance with the principles contained in the Charter for the Management of Staff Overseas (paragraph 78).
(ff)We recommend that the FCO issue detailed guidance to its diplomats as soon as possible on how they should respond to requests from ministers that they draft letters of support for companies seeking contracts abroad, when those companies are declared donors to a British political party (paragraph 82).
(gg)We intend to consider any future political appointments to diplomatic posts (paragraph ?).
(hh)We recommend that the Government in its response to this Report make a fuller statement of its priorities in co-operating with other Government Departments, explaining also what machinery for such co-operation has been put in place and what progress has been made (paragraph 85).

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