Examination of Witnesses (Question Numbers
Mr Jeremy Browne MP, and Conrad Bird
10 November 2010
Q37 Chair: Jeremy, good to see
Mr Browne: Good afternoon.
Chair: Thank you. For the benefit of
the public, this is the second session of this hearing into the
FCO's public diplomacy in the Olympics. Our two witnesses are
Jeremy Browne, who is the Minister of State in the Foreign and
Commonwealth Office, responsible for public diplomacy and the
Olympics, and Mr Conrad Bird, the Head of Public Diplomacy and
Strategic Communications in the Foreign Office. And good afternoon
to you, Mr Bird.
Conrad Bird: Good afternoon.
Q38 Chair: Both of you are very
welcome. Jeremy, do you want to make an opening statement, or
would you like to go straight into questions?
Mr Browne: Which would you prefer?
I can say a couple of words, if you like, but I will keep it brief.
Thank you for giving me this opportunity. London
2012 is, as we all know, an absolutely huge international event,
with a potential television audience of as many as 4 billion people.
I can certainly mark my life by Olympic Games, going through in
four-year chunks. We have not had one in this country since 1948,
and the nature of public diplomacy and of Britain's place in the
world has changed a little bit since then.
We are very keen to use the opportunity. Of
course, the games are primarily a celebration of sporting endeavour,
and a great opportunity to regenerate a substantial part of East
London, but they are alsothis is the purpose of the conversation
we are having this afternoona very good opportunity to
communicate Britain's strengths to a global audience. That is
what we intend to do, both in the run-up to the games and in the
Q39 Chair: Going on from there,
what do you see as the principal opportunities here, in more detail?
And what, indeed, is the downside? To what extent is the Foreign
Office taking the lead in promoting the upside and minimising
Mr Browne: There are lots of opportunities.
We could devote the entire hour just to that, so shall I try to
skim through them a little bit more?
Q40 Chair: We have had the benefit
of your submission in writing, so we have got an idea.
Mr Browne: I think the crucial,
main opportunity is how we position Britain to a global audience
that spends a little bit of time thinking about Britain's attributes
but will have more opportunity to reflect on them in the run-up
to the games. That is partly about explaining to people our capacity
for creativity, innovation and dynamismthe sort of qualities
that we hope would attract people in commercial terms. The games
are also an important opportunity to display our basic competence,
to show that we are capable of running a huge, logistically complicated
event efficiently, on time and on budget, but also with some élan,
some creativity and some wit about it, which will make people
remember it in the future. All of those are part of what we are
trying to do.
It has already started. For example, the President
of Chile was here a few weeks ago, on a hugely successful visit.
He had an audience with the Queen and he met the Prime Minister
and Deputy Prime Minister, but before he left, I went with him
on a visit to the Olympic park, where he was shown around by Sebastian
Coe, and he certainly seemed to me to be awestruck, both at meeting
Sebastian Coe and at seeing the scale of our creativity and engineering
in the Olympic park. That was a great opportunity. We continue
to use those opportunities. I am showing the Brazilian ambassador
around in a few weeks' time. He is new to this country. Obviously,
Brazil hosts the next Olympic Games after us. So it is an opportunity
the whole time to showcase what we are capable of doing.
Q41 Chair: And the weaknesses
Mr Browne: Quite a few of the
threats are beyond are our control. We hope that the games capture
the public imagination, both in this country and around the world.
Obviously, if world records are falling, that will capture the
imagination more than if athletes perform less impressively, but
that is not something we can control. We hope that the weather
is nice, but we can't control that either.
I suppose there are some specific events that
could reflect badly on us, for example if the games facilities
weren't ready on time, but I am absolutely assured that there
is no danger of that happening. In fact, when I went to the Olympic
park for the first time as a Minister, I was amazed to find that
the plan is to have the entire site finished a year in advance,
so there could even be a slippage of a few weeks. Before becoming
a Minister, my perception had been that for all such things, the
finishing touches are still being made and the paint is drying
as the athletes arrive. The fact that we will be so far ahead
of the game bodes very well, in reputational terms.
There is always a risk with very large events,
however, in terms of managing that number of people and external
threats from terrorism, for example, so we have a constant dialogue
between the Government Departments that have an interest to try
to ensure that we are alert to any potential problems and do our
best to mitigate them.
Q42 Chair: The Minister for Sport
and the Olympics sent out his newsletter this morning, stating
that the velodrome will be ready in January or February next yearMr
Bird is nodding. The research that was done by the Foreign Office
showed that the UK was seen on one hand to be fair, innovative,
diverse, confident and stylish, but on the other hand we were
seen as arrogant, stuffy, old-fashioned and cold. Do you think
that those are fair perceptions? Could those negative perceptions
be changed and, if so, how can the Olympics be used to change
We all, as British citizens, get a sense of how Britons are perceived
abroad, and the Foreign Office research probably reflects fairly
accurately some of our observations when we travel to other parts
of the world. I do not think that the Olympics represent a magic
wand that can completely alter how people around the world view
Britain, either for the good or the bad. It is part of a process
that we are constantly engaged in, which is about trying to make
people around the world see Britain in a favourable light.
The Olympics are, of course, a particularly
distinct and important opportunity. There is a stretch of time,
with the games themselves and then the Paralympic games later
in the summer, when literally billions of people will be looking
at this country and seeing how we organise our affairs and how
we put on a huge global show. They will see whether we can do
that with imagination, creativity and a sense of excitement, but
also with rigorous organisational competence. If we can do those
things, I hope that that will benefit us.
If you look at how we are perceived by potential
foreign investors, you will see that there are some slightly more
old-fashioned features of the British character that are actually
quite an attribute and that we ought not to discard lightly, if
at all. For example, there is the sense that the British are trustworthy
and reliable. Those might be slightly doughty qualities, but they
are nevertheless quite good if you are trying to seal a business
deal with someone. All those are attributes that we should be
careful to preserve, but sometimes we might be seen as lacking
a sense of creativity and adventure, which I think is an unfair
perception. If we can address that, that will be all to the good.
Q43 Chair: Do you think that there
is a difference between being old-fashioned and being traditional?
I am talking about the telephone boxes, the red buses, the Coldstream
Guards and all that stuff.
Mr Browne: Well, I think it's
all quite benign. There is a bit of a parody, with lots of policemen
in hats that seem funny to people from elsewhere in the world,
and double-decker buses and so forth. I have often observed that
when tourists come here they seem to enjoy all those things, which
are all fairly harmless. At the risk of making a fairly party
political point, I have been quite struck in my ministerial travels
by how people around the world were impressed by the way we formed
a coalition Government in May, as they observe that in other countries
that seems to take months and months and leads to endless wrangling
and falling out. We seemed to deal with it in a measured, efficient,
orderly and civilised British manner. That impressed quite a lot
of people. Perhaps it's at a subconscious level, but they all
seemed to think that it showed the sort of organisational competence
that it is part of our reputation.
One of the interesting things is that many of
the areas in which Britain is commercially strong are in the type
of value-added, creative industries that, ironically, are perceived
not to be particularly part of our national character. There is
a mismatch between where we potentially can lead the world in
terms of the goods and services that we trade, and where we are
very strong, and how our national character is perceived by many
audiences as not being particularly strong in areas where we are
Q44 Chair: Is your approach in
the various projects that you are sponsoring to go for the mass
audience or to target a small elite of opinion formers?
Mr Browne: I think that it's both.
If billions of people are watching on television, they will have
the opportunity to view events in Britain that they would not
normally have viewed. The hundreds of thousands of people who
come to this country, who might not otherwise have come, will
obviously have much greater opportunities to engage with this
country and its people. On the other hand, I suppose you can't
get much more elitist than taking the President of a country around
the Olympic park. I think he left impressed by what he saw. I
hope that we will be able engage with the people of Chile on a
mass scale, but to spend an hour or two taking the President around
also had value.
Q45 Chair: On that point, I read
in my briefing that you are expecting up to 120 Heads of State
to visit in that year. That's going to need quite some organisation
to handle, if we are going to do it properly and effectively,
and get maximum value from it. What sort of machinery are you
putting in place to deal with that?
Mr Browne: I completely agree
with your observation. I should start by saying what a fantastic
opportunity it is. We've got the G20 meeting in South Koreaadmittedly,
the 20 Heads of State represent pretty much the 20 most prosperous
countries in the world, broadlybut we will have a much
larger international gathering than that, with a very diverse
range of significant Heads of State and Heads of Government all
in Britain, all talking to people in Britain and seeing how Britain
operates. Some may never have been here before, but others will
be remaking old acquaintances.
That is a great opportunity for us, but of course
there is a threat, or a potential hazard, in that it needs to
be well organised. We are alert to that, in terms of the protocol
that we need to observe, which we are organising in the Foreign
Office. Also, there is co-ordination with other Departments. I
sit on a cross-departmental committee, which takes in many aspects
of the games. It is obviously led by the Department for Culture,
Media and Sportthe Olympics Departmentbut there
is also a Transport Minister and a Home Office Minister on it.
The reason for that is that all of those considerations will come
together, in terms of how the games are perceived, whether by
visiting Heads of State or by individuals who have travelled here
from elsewhere in the world just because they want to watch some
of the games being performed.
Q46 Mr Ainsworth: Minister, to
use your words, you are going to tackle this hugely important
and fantastic opportunity with imagination and élan. That's
a good job, isn't it, because you haven't got any money; you've
removed the FCO's Olympic campaign fund in its entirety. What
consequences will flow from that, and have there been any other
cuts as a result of the spending review?
Mr Browne: You are right, Mr Ainsworth,
to say that there were some in-year budget reductions across Government
in the financial year 2010-11, which included reductions in the
Foreign Office budget.
Q47 Mr Ainsworth: In the emergency
Budget in June, you took away the separate Olympic campaign funding
stream, didn't you? That was in 2009-10.
Mr Browne: Yes, we did, for the
existing financial year. I suppose I would make a few observations.
One is that some of the costs were one-off costs incurred in previous
years. I think that you have all been invited to watch a film
this evening called "Going for Green". We can speak
more about the environmental aspects if you want, but it is a
attractive and compelling film about the environmental aspects
of constructing the site. The film doesn't need to be remade this
financial year; it was already made the previous financial year.
Some of the activity and work has already been done. We do have
small sums of money where that is necessary.
The other thing I would say is that one should
not always assume within the Foreign Office that the commitment
to any given task is demonstrated by the size of the programme
funding available for that task. For exampleI keep citing
the same examplethe President of Chile coming here and
looking around the site might have brought some marginal additional
cost to somebody, but that was factored into his visit to the
UK. He seemed to enjoy it; it worked very well on a reputational
level, but it did not require a specific programme fund.
When I go to Mexico in a few weeks' time, the
people there are very alert to environmental issues and they are
about to host a major international summit. I will be showing
an opinion-forming audience there the film about the environmental
impact. Again, the cost is marginal, if non-existent, because
the film already exists and I'm going there anyway. A lot of the
public diplomacy that we are doing every day in post, particularly
in key countries with which we wish to engage strongly, can take
place as part of our normal activities, funded by normal budgets.
Q48 Mr Ainsworth: Have you got
any more information about commercial sponsorships? You appear
to think that this can be done more and more through partnerships
and commercial sponsorships, or at no or low cost. Can you give
some examples of no or low-cost ways, and say how those commercial
sponsorships are going?
Mr Browne: I can, but Conrad might
want to come in with a few more details. We may need to make more
money available in the centre nearer the time. At the moment,
the way we are looking to fund projects is through existing budgets,
through small amounts of money that may be available more generally
for our communications in the Department, and through commercial
sponsorship where that is available. Obviously, we have to be
mindful of the broader sponsorship contractual arrangements to
do with the games. Where we are in a positionfor example,
in an overseas embassyto have an event where commercial
sponsors are able to contribute, we are keen to take those opportunities
as a way of saving the taxpayer money. Would you like to expand
on that, Conrad?
Conrad Bird: I would just add,
on the no-cost opportunities, that we have a very substantial
digital platform. That is a way of maximising the impact of our
messages right across the world. That is an effort to push things
forward on the no-cost side. As for the commercial opportunities,
with this change in budget circumstances, I am thinking historically
of the year of the Shanghai expo. We linked up with companies
there and were able to hold joint events, which did not transgress
any lines. At the moment, our posts are investigating commercial
opportunities, but we have to be mindful of the contracts around
the Olympic Games. To be honest, it is too early to tell you specific
details, but as they come in, I will be happy to share them with
the Committee. Our posts are mindful of that, and have a track
record of trying to pull together imaginative sponsorship in those
Q49 Mr Ainsworth: There is a multitude
of interest groups and various organisations all with a piece
of the pie of the Olympics. As a result, is there a danger that
we wind up with some mixed messagestoo many cooks spoil
the brothand that we are not effectively focusing on where
the benefits will come?
Mr Browne: I think there is a
danger and that is what we are seeking to avoid. It is a huge
event and there are lots of interested parties. There are lots
of Government Departments that have an interest in the event.
Lots of other organisations are also relevant. Of course, in the
Foreign Office we have our posts around the world that we are
keen to engage and to sell the opportunities enthusiastically.
That is why we need to knit it together; we need to co-ordinate
effectively within our Department, between Departments and other
agencies and organisations. We need to prioritise; we need to
think about how we get the maximum impact. That is what we are
constantly trying to do. That is why, for example, we've tried
to ensure that our activities in other countries reflect our commercial
priorities, and it is why there are categories of countries to
which we are particularly trying to direct a disproportionate
amount of focus. We are constantly trying to ensure that there
is no duplication and that the right hand knows what the left
hand is doing.
Q50 Mr Ainsworth: Is there a single
message about Britain that we're trying to get out? What is the
Conrad Bird: I completely agree
that it would be very helpful, as we come towards the games, if
we have one consistent message. We've got lots. We have talked
about being open, welcoming and creative. We need to have business
messages, which need to be tailored. Is there one over-arching
message that can pull a lot of that together? We have just come
from a meeting with No. 10, which was attended by all of the public
diplomacy partners, and we discussed that very thing. As we move
towards the glide path into 2011, we are working with people from
No. 10 to develop a singular, compelling proposition that overarches
everything, behind which we can pile our messages. We are very
aware of the need for a consistent message that we can all get
behind. Having said that, there is a lot of join-up between the
current messages, which we are working on as we speak.
Mr Browne: I don't think there's
any difficulty. I'm not sure that we'll arrive at a single word,
but I think the most compelling messages are the ones that I rehearsed
with the Chairman at the beginning of this discussion. The only
cautionary note that I would add is that there are several good
messages, and I wouldn't wish us to be so focused on the core,
No. 1 message that we lose sight of those.
There's a very good environmental message about
how the site is being put together and how we've undertaken that
work. Quite a lot of it is cutting edge. It is not just about
being mindful of the amount of water that we use; it is also about
high-tech engineering. There is a good regeneration message about
East London. There is a good message about volunteer culture.
I am told that 240,000 people have applied to be considered as
volunteers. We need 70,000, so we are three-and-a-half times oversubscribed,
which is a positive message about the spirit of volunteerism in
Britain. I am not saying that that should be the No. 1, central
message, but those are all messages that I would like us to communicate
to people in addition to the most obvious message, which is that
we are capable of hosting a compelling, attractive, exciting and
massive sporting event. If we can get all those messages across,
so much the better, but I take your point that the danger is that,
if we have too many messages, people won't remember any of them.
We, therefore, need a hierarchy, so that people leave with a clear
idea of what we've been trying to achieve.
Q51 Mr Watts: Minister, in your
documentation you say that the FCO wants to promote British culture
and values. I think I understand how you would promote culture,
but could you fill out the details of what you mean by values?
What are the target groups for that message? Will there be different
messages for different groups? For example, will there be a message
on values to the Islamic world? Could you give us some flavour
of what you mean by that?
Mr Browne: Possibly. Have you
got the CDs? Sorry, they're like a prop, but they are a perfect
example of the mini-films that are being shown in British embassies
and that are available online. The Pakistani cricketer Mushtaq
Ahmed is followed
Chair: We have them.
Mr Browne: So you've seen them.
They are an attempt to communicate with a Pakistani audience,
a Muslim audience, about the culture of tolerance, acceptance
and, I suppose, religious choice in this country. Technically,
that perhaps wouldn't be a relevant message to other countries.
There is a set of values, which may not be unique to Britain,
but which Britain espouses, that includes openness, democracy
and multiculturalism in a tolerant, transparent society. If we
are able to communicate those values to people using the games,
that is all to the good.
Q52 Mr Watts: I understand the
use of the video. How else will you get that message across?
Conrad Bird: I was thinking most
recently about an exercise we did in Palestinethe Speed
Sisters exampleand the combination of the Paralympian Tanni
Grey-Thompson arriving in Palestine and also sponsoring activities
round there. We felt that the Paralympics was a good opportunity
to demonstrate British attitudes towards disability. We felt that
could be an example of promoting the British way of doing things
and our values. With many of these projects values are more difficult,
but we are trying to communicate them through those more subtle
Q53 Mr Roy: Can I just come back
to that point about British culture? I actually think the big
difference in British culture depends on which country of the
United Kingdom you live in and what part of that country. There
is a massive difference between the culture of the people I represent
and the culture of someone from central London or somewhere else
in the south. What will you do to highlight the difference in
culture, as I would say to you that there is not just one British
Conrad Bird: The example I cited
was Jonathan Mills and the Edinburgh festival. The stories we
have taken are not London centric, they are a range of 29 stories
from foreign nationals who have spent time and have travelled
around the UK. In their entirety they show a very rich portrait
of the entire UK via these people's travels and where they have
stayed. That presents a more balanced story than just a London,
Q54 Rory Stewart: Just to push
again on messaging, there might be a concern that the messages
we are sendingcreative, dynamic, competentare a
little vague and anodyne and do not necessarily resonate for someone
in a developing country. How will we make sure that we get something
that is exciting, challenging and makes people wake up and remember
Britain in a distinctive way, rather than just a series of slightly
Mr Browne: I suppose this
follows on a bit from Mr Roy's point. There may be large numbers
of people in the world who think that all British people go to
work in a bowler hat with an umbrella under an armthere
is nothing inherently wrong with that and a few people probably
still dobut it is an inaccurate portrait of Britain today.
I was struck by the fact that the Olympic stadium in Beijing was
designed and built by Arup, the British company. It is seen as
a very interesting architectural structure in China at the last
Olympic Games, but there was a lot of British involvement in it.
It is important that audiences in a country like China where the
economy is doubling in size every six or seven yearsthe
Prime Minister is there this week to try to drive home advantages
in terms of British trade and investment between China and the
United Kingdomsee that Britain and British industry can
be very creative, innovative and dynamic.
I had a discussion recently with the Brazilian
ambassador who is going to visit the Olympic site soonBrazil
will host the games after us. We were talking about the Brazilian
Grand Prix which took place last weekend. He was talking about
engineering and what we have to offer in this country. Britain
is still the sixth-largest manufacturer in the world but I was
saying, "Look at the high tech creativity around Formula
1." So many of the teams are based in Britain and so many
of the people who are designing the cars and also the marketing
around it are British people or companies that are based in Britain.
It is quite important for us to convey those qualities to an international
audience who may otherwise have a view of Britain that is a little
bit more staid and perhaps a little bit less creative.
Q55 Rory Stewart: The other witnesses
were talking in a very interesting way about the kind of message
that you are selling being something that could be important domestically
as well as internationally. If you could get the right brand it
could make Britain more at ease with itself, and overcome some
of our own anxieties about what kind of country we are, if you
could project in both directions at once. Is just being creative,
innovative and dynamic something that is really likely to appeal
either internationally or domestically? Does it really make a
nation? Is that really a brand?
Mr Browne: About 1% of the world's
population is Britishjust underand the other 99%
is the responsibility of the Department that I represent, so I
suppose the Foreign Office is predominantly concentrating on how
we are perceived by the rest of the world. Looking at homeI
am no better placed to make this observation than anyone else
in the room, reallysometimes we, as a country, can be a
bit fatalistic about our ability to organise and host major events.
We can feel that that is something that we don't do. Quite often
a sigh goes round, "Oh gosh, why can't we organise things
on time and on budget?" Well, here we are. We are going to
organise something on time and on budget. It will be a huge international
event and I think that quite a few people in this country, who
were perhaps somewhat cynical about the games back in 2005 when
we were awarded the opportunity to host them, will, as we get
nearer and nearer to the time, be excited by it and some of their
worst fears won't be realised. I hope that that will make people
feel positive about the way we are able to organise events like
Q56 Rory Stewart: Is there something
institutionally that you could do in the Foreign Office, in the
design of the Foreign Office, to make this marketing branding
exercise more inter-Departmental and more co-ordinated? It may
simply be that I am being unfair to you by forcing you to speak
like a brand management agency when you are not, but are you going
to bring in people who know that stuff?
Mr Browne: Let me answer that
quickly. The Department for Culture, Media and Sport, probably
rightly, feel that a lot of the internal communications is their
lead. There are two main reasons why the Foreign Office is involved.
One is the point the Chairman made about the number of foreign
visitors coming to this country, including Heads of State and
Heads of Government. The other is the opportunity that the games
affords us to communicate to the rest of the world through, say,
the internet, or, more formally, through our posts in individual
countries and major cities. That is the predominant reason for
our involvement, rather than trying to rebrand how Britain perceives
itself to a domestic audience here in Britain.
Having said that, I take your point that there
is a degree of overlap. The messages we are communicating to people
in Tokyo or Rio shouldn't be incompatible with the way we are
trying to look at ourselves, but we have not been asked as a Foreign
Office to come up with a way of making people feel better about
themselves in the East Midlandsor the West Midlands, I
don't know why I picked the East Midlands at random. I hope that
that will be the effect, but that is not, I suppose, the core
function of the Foreign Office. Having said that, you may feel
that there are some particular aspects.
Conrad Bird: I was wondering if
I could answer the co-ordination point, because I think you are
absolutely rightthe co-ordination of this is critical.
First, within Government, and with our public diplomacy partners,
we meet regularly with GOE, VisitBritain, UKTI, British Council,
BBC World Service, Cultural Olympiad and so on in order to ensure
that there is consistency right across and, in terms of the answer
about the substance on the ground, to make sure that something
fantastic, like International Inspiration, is reflected, our embassies
know it is happening in-country and they can make the most of
the opportunity, because it is by substance that you demonstrate
these attributes in that way.
Equally, we are very aware of Simon Anholt,
his skills and the Anholt index. Simon has advised us and we held
recently a Wilton Park event on public diplomacy where we invited
experts, like Simon, from right across the world to discuss public
diplomacy. In fact, in January we are holding another wider meeting
of what we call the public diplomacy partners and the community
of experts who can assist and guide us on this. So we are very
mindful that we really do not have all the answers and we need
to pull in and invite in the thinking of specialists who can substantially
upgrade our effort.
Mr Browne: May I just make one
brief additional point? When we are trying to co-ordinate effectively
between Departments, we are alert to the fact that there may even
potentially be conflicted interests. Let me give you an example.
The best way to ensure that visiting Heads of State feel like
the important people that they are is to close large numbers of
roads so that they can be transported very efficiently from where
they are staying to the stadium. That may not be the best way
in which to enthuse paying spectators who are not able to get
there very easily or conveniently as a consequence. We are trying
to ensure that when we work with the Department for Transport,
for example, different considerations come into play and we get
the balance right. The Department for Transport is probably also
working with the Home Office to try to ensure that the balance
is right between ease of transport and security considerations.
There is a whole package of considerations, and we hope to get
that package right.
I believe that some roads are going to be closed during the games.
Mr Browne: That is more an area
for the Department for Transport than for me. The sheer numbers
of people coming to Britain and the scale of the event mean that
it is inevitable that some provisions will have to be made in
transport terms. The people organising the games are highly mindful
of the need to make it a successful games for everybody. That
is reflected in the ticket pricing and the diversity of venues
that have been chosen.
Q58 Chair: Sticking on public
diplomacy, let's look at trade and investment opportunities. It
doesn't need me to tell you that there are huge opportunities
here for us on inward investment, exports, refreshing old contacts
and building up our reputation. Going through the documentation
that you sent in to us before this inquiry, you deal in detail
with a lot of areas, but the section on trade and investment activity
looks rather thin. You make brief reference to the host-to-host
programme and then you have two-and-a-half lines saying that,
"Lancaster House is going to be used as a business hub at
the games time to promote UK industry." I hope that there
will be a bit more to it than that. We put the point about Lancaster
House to one of our witnesses earlier and he said that it was
rather like business as usual. I must say that I rather agree
with him. Why are we not having a trade fair or something? I am
not talking about an Expo here, but surely we could be making
a much bigger push than at the moment appears to be the case.
Mr Browne: I take your underlying
assumption as a good starting point, which is that the games are
an opportunity to promote trade. Some of that may be in a slightly
intangible way. The fact that Britain is front of mind for billions
of people around the world and that people, I hope, will be enthused
by the way in which we organise the games may, in years to come,
make them more inclined to open up a European office in Britain
rather than elsewhere in Europe and to be well disposed towards
us. It may be hard to measure that. We are trying to be more specific.
The hierarchy of countries in which we are looking
to be most active and have the most organised programme of events
running up to the games is based on commercial priorities. For
example, the embassies in those countries will host a series of
events and they can tailor them. It is appropriate and sensible
that they should vary from country to country. The events will
be around milestones such as when the tickets go on sale in March
of next year and when there is a year-to-go countdown. We will
try to organise activities in those countries that capture the
imagination of the individual markets. If we can do that as much
as possible with sponsors and British businesses, which are particularly
big players in those countries, then we are keen to involve them
Sebastian Coe and other famous British Olympians
will be part of the programmes for engagement in those countries
to add a bit of stardust if you like and to create the obvious
link between our public diplomacy and commercial activities with
the games themselves. We will see programmes of events in the
next 22 months, particularly in key markets such as China, India
and Brazil as well as established ones such as Germany and France.
Those activities are already getting off the ground. We hope that
they will help to improve the context in which British companies
operate in those countries.
Q59 Chair: Sticking to my point,
do you think just Lancaster House is enough for you as a business
hub during the games and the run-up to them?
Mr Browne: We are open to ideas
and suggestions. That was thought to be a prestigious venue and
a good platform for organising links with business and commercial
audiences. Most people think it is a fairly grand settingalthough
it may not be up to scratch for everyone.
Q60 Chair: I agree with you that
it is a grand setting. I am just wondering if it is extensive
Conrad Bird: May I answer that?
I think we may have under-described the huge trade and promotional
effort that is being made. It really is very large indeed, and
at the top of the mind. Trade expo events are in planning at the
moment. If you would like us to supply more information, we can
give you much more detail on that, especially through our partners
at UKTI. To add some
colour to that, Brazil, for example, is a key partner in this
and provides a key commercial opportunityparticularly because
it has the World Cup coming its way. We can therefore sell it
a lot of consultancy and expertise on how to manage this.
In the returns from post, I see that we've got
15 events planned between now and July, many of which are major
trade opportunities with Ministers of Commerce, dignitary exchanges,
expos around that and so on. The target countries in our top commercial
list are going to be over-served and are expected to come to the
plate on this. At the same time, we will look at that closer to
games time and see how we can make the most of it. I hope to reassure
you on that by giving you more details.
Mr Browne: May I add one extra
point that comes to mind, which links to Mr Roy's earlier point?
I understand from memory that the Japanese team will be based
at Loughborough UniversityI have mentioned the East Midlands
as well. Some of our trade and promotion work in Japan will make
a virtue of the fact that the Japanese team won't be in London
when they're not competing; they'll be in another part of the
country. There's also work going on in terms of the link with
Loughborough in Leicestershirein that part of the country.
Consideration has been given to tailoring programmes that take
into account all the different aspect of the games.
Q61 Mr Roy: Coming back to the
environmental issues and the positives and negatives, a positive
is that the promotional film "Going for Green: Britain's
2012 Dream" is certainly a very good idea. It emphasises
the green issues and the importance that was given to the whole
Olympic project in the past. It is all about what we have already
done. Where I am worried and slightly negativebelieve it
or notis that the written evidence from the FCO doesn't
mention a green agenda for the games at all, except for a single
passing reference to sustainability. Equally important is the
promotion of environmental good practice, which isn't listed at
all in the formal objectives for the public diplomacy work in
London. Why is that?
Mr Browne: I don't know. When
I became a Minister and I started to examine the work that had
been doneobviously a lot of it had been in train since
2005I was struck by the prominence given to the environmental
agenda, both in terms of the regeneration of part of East London
and the broader environmental agenda. That work sought to illustrate
how effective British designers and businesses are at building
buildings that are effective in terms of energy efficiency, transport
considerations and so on. I am surprised and disappointed if it
is felt that the environmental aspects have been given insufficient
attention. We will need to turn the volume up on that.
I gave an example of the high level of environmental
consciousness in Mexico because it is hosting a successor conference
to Copenhagenalthough not on the same scalein Cancun
in a few weeks' time. That video and promotional work on what
we are doing in Britain on environmental projects, and using the
Olympics as a means of illustrating that, will feature in the
visit that I'm doing there and in what we're doing there through
Q62 Mr Roy: Surely that's in the
past. What I'm trying to get at is whether there's a difference
in emphasis on green issues. What you're talking about is what's
already passed. What I'm worried about is the fact that there's
a passing reference to green issues in the paper that we've received,
and that there's nothing at all in relation to public diplomacy
in it. Why is that?
Mr Browne: If the inference of
your question is that the environmental aspects of the games were
seen as a big selling point and now there has been a conscious
policy shift and they are not seen as a big selling point, that
is certainly not the case. If that is the impression that has
been created I regret that, because we are keen to use the games
to make some big points about environmentalism in this country.
I keep going back to the filmit's not
just the film, but the film does it very effectively. It's all
kinds of imaginative ways, with everything from cleaning the soil
that is contaminated to using the canals to bring goods on to
the site without using lorries, to the amount of water that is
recycled for flushing the toilets. It goes on and on and on, and
the impression left for anyone watching it is not only that Britain
is very interested in environmental matters, but that we have
a large number of people in this country who are extremely skilled,
technically, at finding environmental solutions to problems.
Of course, that is not just a political or an
environmental message; it is a powerful commercial message as
well. There are a lot of countries around the world the economies
of which are expanding rapidly, and which are keen to try to find
ways to have more sustainable cities with more energy-efficient
buildings and public transport systems and so on. So, if we are
demonstrating on a small scale within an Olympic park the capacity
to lead thinking in that area, that bodes very well for us when
those countries are looking around the world to see which architects,
which designers and which engineers from which countries are most
likely to be able to help them.
Q63 Mr Roy: That's all very well,
but with respect, that is the story of what has happened. What
I'm interested in is what's happening in the future, and why there
is no mention of the environmental issues in the public diplomacy
paper now. From the outside, I see a difference in emphasis. I
see highlighted all the good green issues that there have been,
but I don't see all the good green aspirations.
Conrad Bird: May I help you on
the second point? I'm just looking at our returns from the British
embassy in Moscow, and from Japan. We are trying to arrange a
conference on 10 February entitled, "Ecological urbanism:
a sustainable and energy-efficient approach in urban architecture."
And in Japan we are looking at an event at the embassy house on
the sustainable nature of the Olympic site, in terms of urban
regeneration, future use and environmental impact. The key audiences
will be opinion formers on climate issues, investors in low-carbon
industries and the Japanese general public as well. It will position
the UK as a world leader in sustainable, high-technology, low-carbon
development. That is being used as an opportunity at post level,
in order to meet objectives.
Q64 Mr Roy: But not being given
out to the public? If it's not in your paper, it is not being
given out to the public.
Conrad Bird: In terms of the public
audience, I go back to the "Going for Green" film again.
We hope that, through the broadcast deals we make and therefore
recover money on, it's going to have an audience of up to 300
Q65 Mr Roy: In the past.
Mr Browne: A future audience of
Q66 Mr Roy: But with due respect,
the film's about the past. I want to know about the future. Are
you going to put an emphasis on that?
Mr Browne: The site's virtually
built. We don't need to rebuild it in a more environmental way.
I suppose that inevitably there are phases. There was a phase
of "What were the environmental solutions that we found in
putting together the games?", which includes finding an enormous
piece of contaminated land, putting the power cables underground,
washing all the soil that was contaminated, building sports stadiums
using less energy, and making them more energy-efficient to operate,
et cetera. There is that phase, but everyone goes to the site.
They are still putting the finishing touches, but the basic shape
of the site is largely complete. So, the phase from now through
to the games is probably about explaining to people what we've
been doing, because most of the engineering and the design is
complete. In some parts of the park, they are planting the trees
for landscaping, so it is well advanced. If we are going to try
and show off, if you like, how environmentally sustainable the
Olympic park is, we will inevitably be telling the audience about
what we have been doing to make it environmentally sustainable,
because most of the environmental sustainability is around the
construction of the site.
Q67 Mr Frank Roy: I am sure you
will agree that, in future, there are an awful lot of green issues
that can still be brought up and promoted.
Mr Browne: We are trying to promote
them. If you could think of lots more examples over and above
the ones we have, I would be more than happy to promote those
as well. It is a compelling story and it is one of the features
of the games about which we think we have a very good story to
Conrad just gave a couple of examples, and when
I was in China recently I attended a conference in Shanghaiit
wasn't directly linked to the Olympics, so I won't dwell on it
for long. However, what is interesting is that they are trying
to wrestle with challenges that are presented by, literally, hundreds
of millions of their citizens moving from rural areas to cities,
and the question of how to grow those cities in a way that is
reasonably environmentally sustainable, in terms of the amount
of steel they use, the buildings and how they heat them, their
transport infrastructure and so on. If we can demonstrate that
we have technological expertise, creativity and imagination in
how we meet those tasks, we make ourselves more attractive to
people in those countries that are wrestling with such difficulties.
Chair: Minister, I know you have
to go in nine minutes' time. We still have a couple of areas that
we want to probe.
Q68 Andrew Rosindell: Minister,
I have just a few questions. First of all, it's a huge event;
what if things go wrong? Have you considered the risks? Do you
have contingency plans to deal with delays or, possibly, a terrorist
attack, or other problems that may occur? What are your back-up
plans to deal with those sorts of situations?
Mr Browne: On that bleak question,
I hope that features of previous games that have gone wrong, such
as big budget overruns or delays in construction, which are directly
within our controlmy understanding and hope is that they
will not go wrong in 2012. I hope that we will deliver the games
on budget and they will be easily on time. Actually, there will
be lots of time in advance to make sure that everything is operationally
effective, and to plan as well as we possibly can for the games
to run smoothly.
Of course, beyond that, there are always factors
that are not directly within our control, but we are trying to
handle those as effectively as possible. I attended a cross-departmental
committee a few days ago and discussions took place about trying
to make sure that we effectively manage the large additional influx
of visitors to the country, over and beyond what we would normally
get in a summer holiday period. That includes, as the Chairman
has said, a large number of VIP visitors who will all be here
at roughly the same time. There is consideration of how to make
the transport system effective when there are extra people using
it. There is consideration about trying to make sure that the
ticketing is effective at the site, so that there aren't people
with tickets who cannot get into the events because the systems
don't work properly. There is consideration, of course, as there
always isthe police attend the committee, as well as Ministersabout
public order, terrorism and all those matters. We are trying
to plan as effectively as we possibly can, as a Government, to
try to prevent the worst situations from happening, and to try
and respond effectively if they do.
Q69 Andrew Rosindell: The year
2012 is not only the year of the Olympics, but the year of the
Queen's diamond jubilee, which means 60 years on the throne. That
will be another huge event during that year and an historic occasion
for the country. What is the Foreign Office doing to ensure that
that also has prominence, in terms of promoting Britain's image
Mr Browne: You are right; it is
a huge event in its own right, and it is also a huge public diplomacy
event, if you want to see it in those terms. We will certainly
use the opportunity of the Queen having been on the throne for
60 years to celebrate her reign right around the world, and our
embassies and others will mark it with opinion formers and other
audiences in host countries. I think there are sensitivities potentially
underlying part of your question, which is whether we bundle all
of these up into one event. That would not be appropriate; 60
years since the coronation of the Queen is a notable event, if
you want to put it that way, in its own right.
Andrew Rosindell: Accession, not coronation.
Mr Browne: Where it is appropriate,
however, and due sensitivities are observed, we can mark that
at the beginning of June. With the Olympics in July, there may
be opportunities there, but we don't want to detract in any way
from the 60th anniversary.
Andrew Rosindell: May I ask one more
Chair: Well, he's got to go in three
Q70 Andrew Rosindell: I am pleased
to hear you are not bundling the two things together, but can
you give us an assurance that the diamond jubilee will not be
sidelined and overshadowed by the Olympics?
Mr Browne: I think I can do that.
I have not discussed with every single post precisely how they
anticipate marking and celebrating the diamond jubilee in 2012,
but I am sure that they will want to mark it and celebrate it
as a very big and significant event for Britain and the Commonwealth
in its own right, and it will stand alone as a significant occasion.
The only caveat I would add to that is that
there may be appropriate opportunitiesfor example, in a
very large gathering of influential people at the British ambassador's
residence in a capital city somewhere in the worldto say
how exciting it is that their Head of Government or their Head
of State will be visiting Britain the following month for the
Olympic Games; that may be an appropriate linkage.
I take your point about the Olympics not overshadowing
or blurring in an inappropriate way into the 60th anniversary
celebrations. That would be something that we would wish to avoid.
Chair: I am sure they will both be great
in their own right.
Q71 Mike Gapes: A quick question
about one issue that is causing great concern in London: the marathon
is not intending to run into the Olympic stadium through East
London. That is causing enormous concern. As a Minister, is there
any possibility you can look at that issue?
Mr Browne: I can refer your concerns
to relevant Ministers, but the Foreign Office is not responsible
for the organisation of the individual races or the routes they
take. I appreciate that is the only one where there is any potential
for dispute about the route; I mean, it is not like the 100 metres.
I take your point that normally the marathon runners come in and
they do a few laps in the stadium at the end.
Q72 Mike Gapes: My second point
concerns learning from the lessons of previous Olympic Games.
What lessons have we taken from Beijing? Related to that, what
lessons have we learned from the Commonwealth Games in India?
Mr Browne: The last time that
Britain hosted the Olympic Games was in 1948, and the nature of
the games has changed out of all recognition since then. If you
go to the siteI don't know whether you have all been to
the sitethe facilities for the media are absolutely enormous.
That is an example of the way the games have changed since we
last hosted them.
Obviously, we have to learn from each previous
games, and we have worked with countries that have hosted the
games recently. For that matter, we are working and will work
closely with the Brazilians when they come to host the games after
us. Having said that, each games is not only a process of continuity
from the previous games but an individual and unique event. I
would not expect us to run the games exactly as the Chinese, the
Greeks or the Australians ran them, but obviously we work with
those countries and we are keen to learn from them.
Q73 Mike Gapes: What about India,
and the Commonwealth Games?
Mr Browne: We are keen to learn
from the experiences that they had in Delhi as well, not least
because the next Commonwealth Games will be in the United Kingdom.
If you are alluding particularly to the readiness of venues, I
was extremely reassured to learn that we will be ready approximately
a year in advance of the games taking place, so I do not anticipate
some of the difficulties that India had in that regard.
Q74 Sir John Stanley: Minister,
for me, the single most distasteful feature of the Beijing Olympic
Games was the way in which the Chinese authorities lighted upon
any individual who might exercise their right to freedom of expression
or peaceful protest, put them under house arrest, and locked them
up or sent them miles away from Beijing and the media. I thought
that the Prime Minister made an admirable speech in China yesterday,
stressing how fundamentally important to our society is freedom
Can you assure the Committee, unequivocally,
that when the Olympic Games happen here, the Prime Minister's
words will be translated into actionthat this country's
normal right to freedom of expression, peaceful protest and demonstration,
and right to display banners, will be adhered to and upheld, regardless
of their causing some possible embarrassment or sensitivity to
those visiting dignitaries who allow no such freedom of expression
in their own countries?
Mr Browne: Let me say a couple
of things about that. First, I think many people admired the way
that the games were organised in Beijing. They were a celebration
of China's arrival as a major world player, and I do not want
to detract from the spectacular organisational success of its
games, including, for example, the opening and closing ceremonies,
as well as the sport itself.
I said a moment ago to Mr Gapes that each games
is distinctive. You have probably put your finger on an area of
obvious distinctiveness, which is how we conduct our affairs in
Britain compared with China. I think that throughout the games,
in formal aspects such as the opening ceremony, but also in the
overall ambience of the country while the games are taking place,
the feeling will be distinctive and different from what it was
in China in 2008. We have in this country a long-standing observance
of free speech and freedom to protest; we witnessed that today
in Westminster. That is very much part of our tradition, and it
will not be suspended because of the Olympic Games being here.
Chair: Minister, thank you very much
indeed, and you, Mr Bird. It has been a very helpful session,
and you have provided very useful information.
1 See Ev 38. Back