Session 2010-11
Publications on the internet









Evidence heard in Public

Questions 90 - 114



This is an uncorrected transcript of evidence taken in public and reported to the House. The transcript has been placed on the internet on the authority of the Committee, and copies have been made available by the Vote Office for the use of Members and others.


Any public use of, or reference to, the contents should make clear that neither witnesses nor Members have had the opportunity to correct the record. The transcript is not yet an approved formal record of these proceedings.


Members who receive this for the purpose of correcting questions addressed by them to witnesses are asked to send corrections to the Committee Assistant.


Prospective witnesses may receive this in preparation for any written or oral evidence they may in due course give to the Committee.

Oral Evidence

Taken before the Foreign Affairs Committee

on Wednesday 15 December 2010

Members present:

Richard Ottaway (Chair)

Mr Bob Ainsworth

Mr John Baron

Sir Menzies Campbell

Ann Clwyd

Mike Gapes

Andrew Rosindell

Mr Frank Roy

Sir John Stanley

Rory Stewart

Mr Dave Watts

Examination of Witnesses

Witnesses: Rt Hon. David Miliband MP, former Foreign Secretary (2007-10); and Sir Malcolm Rifkind KCMG QC MP, former Foreign Secretary (1995-97), Chair, Intelligence and Security Committee, gave evidence.

Q90 Chair: I welcome members of the public to the second evidence session of the Committee’s inquiry into the role of the Foreign Office in UK Government. Today, we have two very important witnesses: the two most recent Foreign Secretaries of the Labour party and the Conservative party, the right hon. David Miliband and the right hon. Sir Malcolm Rifkind.

Thank you both very much indeed for coming. Is there anything you want to say by way of an opening statement, or are you happy to go straight into questions?

Sir Malcolm Rifkind: May I take one minute, Chairman?

Chair: Of course.

Sir Malcolm Rifkind: Thank you very much, and I thank the Committee for this unusual and fascinating initiative that you’re taking. I just want to say briefly, because it may not come up later, that I very much welcome William Hague’s statement about not wishing to see shrinkage in the United Kingdom’s global role and that that’s how he’s going to manage the Foreign Office. That’s very important, because a crucial question, to put it very briefly, is whether the United Kingdom wants to continue to have a foreign policy comparable to that of France, or whether Spain or Italy is going to be a more appropriate model, given our difficult circumstances. I just have two caveats about what the Government are seeking to do. I hope they succeed and I very much support what they’re trying to do, but I have two caveats.

First, the Government are trying to do that at a time when for a good number of years, there has been shrinkage in the diplomatic personnel we have at the same time as there has been a massive increase in the number of countries that have to have British representation. The Soviet Union had one embassy; we now have 15 countries where we had one embassy in Moscow. Yugoslavia now has seven separate embassies, whereas before we had one. So although the total number of diplomatic personnel remains roughly similar, the pressures are very, very acute.

The second, equally brief, point I want to make flows from the same consideration-that I hope very much the Government will bear in mind that if you wish to have a global foreign policy, you cannot divorce foreign policy from your defence capability, your military capability. The two are linked together if it’s a global foreign policy you wish to pursue. There’s a very well known remark of Frederick the Great: "Diplomacy without arms is like music without instruments." Just this week, we’ve had all the tributes to Richard Holbrooke-deserved tributes, but do remember that as an American negotiator, he carried weight because behind his diplomacy was US military might, which could be used if required.

We’re not in that sort of league; we don’t expect ever to be in that sort of league, but proportionately it’s still relevant that without a recognised military capability, your diplomacy is seriously constrained and restricted. That may be the right thing to do, but any Government must bear in mind the consequences of it.

David Miliband: Chairman, I also thank you for inviting me. Other than saying that we should surely do better than France, I want to make three points-three reflections, really-on some of the evidence that you’ve had so far.

The first is that a lot of the evidence has focused-perhaps naturally, given the title of your inquiry-on the internal workings of Whitehall, and very little has been said about the relationship between Britain and the outside world. It seems to me that thinking about the future influence of the Foreign Office without thinking about the world in which the Foreign Office is operating is a real category error. Diplomacy is about power, and power has shifted not just to the east and not just to the international level, but also, as we’ve seen in the most extreme form with the WikiLeaks misadventure, from organisations to people. The successes of British foreign policy over the last few years-I think of the return of democracy to Pakistan, the independence of Kosovo, the Gaza peace resolution and the Chinese and South Korean embrace of low-carbon thinking on the environment-speak to the Foreign Office adapting to those shifts in power.

The second thing is that we mustn’t forget it’s the interests of Britain that count more than the interests of the Foreign Office. Quite a lot of the commentary on DFID’s appearance that I’ve seen since the Committee is all about what DFID and its arrival mean for the Foreign Office. Surely the important question is, what does the arrival of DFID mean for Britain? I think it’s important that we don’t fall into the fallacy of believing that whatever is good for the Foreign Office is necessarily good for Britain. We have to look at it in the round.

Thirdly and finally, I’ve been a bit surprised that relatively few of your correspondents have mentioned the increasing importance of multilateral institutions. After all, the United Nations Security Council is a remarkable advantage that Britain, with its permanent status, has over all but four other countries in the world. There has been relatively little discussion of Brussels, whether in EU or NATO contexts. It seems to me that in the multipolar world, our multilateral engagement and the multilateral engagement of our diplomats is even more important. I hope that your inquiry can reflect on that.

Q91 Chair: You’re both right on the button. You will have an opportunity to build on both lines. Let’s start the questions.

We have had a lot of comment that the Foreign Office isn’t what it used to be, and one thing that has been blamed for this is the extensive management requirements of the past. In his parting shot, Sir Ivor Robert said that the Foreign Office is "wading through the…excrescences of the management age", and has "forgotten what diplomacy is all about". Lord Hennessy described it as a "huge displacement activity". Others have said that there has been a "loss of regional expertise due in part to budget cuts", which means that the Foreign office has lost its focus-and so on. Do you think that the Foreign Office is weakened as a force in the making of UK foreign policy?

David Miliband: I think that every Department has a neurotic relationship, or tends to a neurotic relationship, with No. 10. Its permanent staff are always measuring its relationship with No. 10. The truth is that, for every Department, it waxes and wanes, not least because, given the demands of a 24-hour news cycle and the focus on the leadership of the Prime Minister, there’s obviously a growth of focus on the Prime Minister.

My own view is that the Lebanon war was a difficult time for the Foreign Office. It was a period when the "house view", if you like, didn’t find expression in the policy of the Government, and that was quite tough for the Foreign Office. It is important, however, not to fall into a golden age-itis, where everything was better in the past. The truth is that in areas that have been a relative priority-for example, in respect of Iran, where we put a lot of effort in, and it’s very tough for our diplomats there; in South Asia, Afghanistan and Pakistan; in Brussels and in the EU; in Turkey and its relations-we have seen real energy and confidence in the Foreign Office.

Sir Malcolm Rifkind: Your question, Chairman, is essentially about whether there has been too much emphasis on management in the Foreign Office at the expense of traditional diplomacy. I make one pre-comment before making a substantive reply. Yes, of course any Government Department, including the Foreign Office, must find benefit from modern management concepts, getting better value for money, better methods of decision making and so forth. There is nothing wrong with modern management, but I share to some significant degree the quotation you gave from Ivor Roberts. I think there is a validity there.

The Foreign Office has been under great pressure for a good number of years to depart from concentrating purely on diplomacy and becoming more modern and more progressive in some rather vaguely defined way. Part of that pressure, for example, has been to suggest that the Foreign Office should be far more involved than in the past on business and trade issues. There’s nothing wrong with that-that’s always been part of the work of the Foreign Office-but if we are being told, for example, that in a number of missions around the world that’s the primary reason why we are there, and that’s why we should appoint a particular ambassador rather than someone else, I think that is making a very serious mistake.

I also am not impressed by the suggestion that has come from various quarters that we should encourage business men, for example, to become ambassadors. That would be as inappropriate as expecting ambassadors to be good business men. I don’t see why the one is required to do the other’s job. I go beyond that: there can be very serious loss of the public interest if you have the wrong kind of person with the wrong skills in a delicate ambassadorial post. I give two examples, one for and one against.

During the Falklands, in the first few weeks, there was no certainty that the United States was going to come down in favour of the United Kingdom, because the State Department was trying to press a much more neutral position on the Reagan Administration. One of the reasons why the State Department lost that debate, and we benefited, was that Nico Henderson, the British ambassador in Washington, was on almost every channel on US television and radio day after day, selling the United Kingdom view, and gradually winning the public argument.

I contrast that with what happened during the Iraq war in the United Kingdom with the United States embassy. I make no comment at the moment about the pros and cons of the Iraq war. The only point I am making is that the person who was US ambassador at that time, although a very fine man and a very able man, had not been appointed for his diplomatic experience. He was not particularly proficient on television-didn’t like appearing on radio or television. The embassy would constantly offer the No. 2 and the channels don’t want the No. 2; they want the ambassador. The United States lost a very important opportunity to influence public opinion in the United Kingdom on US policy. Those are just two examples, but I think they illustrate the risks if you have the wrong sort of person given a senior ambassadorial post.

Q92 Ann Clwyd: You both headed other Departments before becoming Foreign Secretary. What would you say the difference is between the Foreign Secretary’s position and being Secretary of State in another Department?

Sir Malcolm Rifkind: Chevening. [Laughter.] But not just. I’m sorry, that just came out spontaneously.

There are very big differences. First, never forget the very small size of the Foreign Office. It’s a relatively small Department with a minute budget. You are not involved in actual legislation, except very much at the margins. You don’t take many executive decisions in terms of actually initiating a policy, seeing it through, implementing it and then moving on. Virtually every area of policy you are interested in, by definition, nowadays at any rate, is with allies-colleagues. You see more of your fellow Foreign Ministers than you do, sometimes, of your Cabinet colleagues, because of the nature of the job.

It’s a very grand position. I think it was Stanley Baldwin who said, "I have 16 members in my Cabinet: 15 who think they should be Foreign Secretary and only one who wants to be Minister of Labour." It’s a job that people enjoy being asked to do, but it also takes you out of the domestic political debate, to a considerable extent, and that can also be a problem for all Governments and Foreign Secretaries.

David Miliband: That’s obviously correct. I’d just add a couple of points-one, that you’re not legislating, in the main, and that means that finding ways to spend time in Parliament and engage Parliament is important. I rather welcome the suggestion or, I think, decision of the current Government that they’re going to have, I think, quarterly statements; I’d actually welcome a quarterly debate on Afghanistan. I think that’s quite a good thing and I think Parliament’s role would be well served by Foreign Policy debates that would air the big issues. We’re not going to do that through legislation.

One other point, which I think is relevant to broader questions: the Foreign Office is unique in that two thirds of its staff are foreigners: 10,000 Foreign Office staff are locally engaged around the world, in increasingly senior positions in political staffs. The political staff in Iran were all arrested-economic staff as well-and forced to resign by the authorities there. That means that the team is a different kind of team. It’s got a lot of very good local knowledge, but from around the world rather than here in the UK, and I think that means that some of the management issues that Malcolm referred to earlier arise for a particular purpose, because of the nature of the team that exists.

Q93 Ann Clwyd: What is more helpful to a Foreign Secretary and the FCO? Is it a Prime Minister with a strong personal interest in foreign affairs, and an engagement with foreign affairs, or a Prime Minister who has got an interest because of his own job, but stands away a bit more?

David Miliband: It depends whether he agrees with you or not. [Laughter.] It’s either a blessing or a curse, depending on whether he agrees with you.

One point that Malcolm was making to me outside is that, unlike the French President, the British Prime Minister has an enormous range of parliamentary and other responsibilities that means he or she cannot dedicate the sort of time the French President might to foreign affairs. But the truth is that any differences that exist between the Foreign Office and No. 10 are exploited in a dangerous way, and that’s why it’s very important that you stay very closely together.

My experience with Gordon Brown was that the biggest challenges that he faced were around the global economic crisis, and also a big set of domestic economic and social issues; but on the foreign policy questions we worked very hard to make sure there wasn’t a cigarette paper between us. So he knew that he had to find the time for that, and it happened. The Gaza ceasefire resolution is an example, in January 2009. Prime Ministers know that when they’re needed to give the extra push, they’re there. They don’t always have the time for the routine stuff, but they’re there for the extra push.

Sir Malcolm Rifkind: I think, if you look at the role of Prime Ministers, they come in all shapes and sizes. We’ve had Gladstone, Neville Chamberlain and Tony Blair, who are the three who had such a dominant role in foreign policy, sometimes at the expense of the authority of their Foreign Secretary.

David Miliband: Churchill?

Sir Malcolm Rifkind: Churchill was in wartime, so that’s a unique situation. I’m thinking of peacetime circumstances.

Is that good? Is it healthy? It depends what the issues are that have to be addressed at that moment in time. If there is a global problem, if there is a question of peace or war, it has to be the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary must take second place. I should have added Anthony Eden because he, too, so dominated foreign policy that his Foreign Secretary, Selwyn Lloyd, was very much in the shadows. So, if it’s peace or war, these issues are relevant.

I make one additional point. In the last 20 or 30 years, it has been not only inevitable but wise that the Prime Minister has had a much greater part in foreign policy than would have been necessary before. You cannot have a European Council and hope to have impact as a country without your Prime Minister’s personal contribution; likewise at Commonwealth Heads of Government, G20 and the other great international gatherings of Heads of Government. It’s only in the last 30 or 40 years that Heads of Government have met so regularly. We are part of that process, and our Prime Minister has to make a major contribution.

That having been said, the best kind of Prime Minister is the Prime Minister who identifies what is crucial to his or her overall strategy and in every other area leaves the Foreign Secretary to get on with it. I had the privilege of working under John Major, and that was exactly the approach he took. He was hands on on things that he believed were crucial, but he was not constantly breathing down my neck on a whole range of other issues-he wanted to know about them, but he was not trying to control them in a hands-on way.

Q94 Ann Clwyd: As we all know, because we have been, or are, elected politicians, foreign policy issues are less important to the electorate than domestic ones, except in the case of controversial issues, such as Iraq. Do you think this is helpful to the Foreign Office at the moment, as it tries to make a stand about its diminishing influence because of cutbacks in funding?

David Miliband: First, don’t buy into that; be careful of the diminishing influence school. The truth is that other countries have hearings like this, and when they ask their Foreign Ministers, "What would you like your Foreign Office to be like?" those Ministers generally say that they would like it to be like what we do, so be careful of the idea of diminishing influence. There are certainly diminishing resources, which is a real problem. The squeeze is real and it has practical effects-there is no doubt about that-but that is slightly different from the issue of diminishing influence.

The engagement of the British public on foreign policy issues is a real question. One of the things that I was very keen to do as Foreign Secretary was, to some extent, to bring foreign policy home, not least because there are communities in Britain that follow different issues, whether in the Middle East or elsewhere, extremely closely, and the Foreign Office can’t afford to be a distant and forbidding institution for them; it actually needs to engage much more proactively with them.

In my view, for the sake of the economic and social health of this country, it can’t afford to neglect its internationalism. It would be a terrible irony if, at a time when the countries of the world are more and more interdependent, not just on security issues but on a whole range of economic, social and ecological questions, Britain was the country that drew the wrong lesson, which is that now is the time to rein in everything, except for trade and business. I think that would be a disastrous and perverse outcome. The engagement with the British people is a vital part of that.

Sir Malcolm Rifkind: I don’t disagree with that, but I do add a caveat, because we are living in a very different world from the one we would have had 40 or 50 years ago, and that has both pluses and minuses.

What do I mean by that? Up until about 20 or 30 years ago, what was happening in the outside world took time to filter into the United Kingdom. Our media were not getting instant news-it wasn’t appearing on a television screen and there wasn’t 24-hour coverage-so it didn’t require an instant response. Even if the public were deeply concerned about an issue, by the time they heard about it, the Foreign Ministries of the world had already had time to analyse what was going on and to decide what their response should be. The risk we have now is that, such is the pressure of media reportage-and that’s something we will have to live with; it won’t go away-Governments are expected to give immediate responses, usually on the day, to reports that the public have heard about, our constituents are worried about and the news media are fascinated by. The danger for Foreign Ministers and for Prime Ministers is that they see the political imperative of giving a response, but they haven’t properly thought it through, and that is extremely risky.

Harold Macmillan was Foreign Secretary for a short time. He made a marvellous speech when he said that Foreign Ministers are always in a cruel dilemma: their speeches hover between the cliché and the indiscretion; they are either dull or dangerous. I think that it is becoming more of a risk that a Foreign Minister or a Prime Minister, on these issues that have just suddenly been reported, give a view and then spend the next few weeks wishing they hadn’t. That could have happened in the past, but it’s much more likely to happen now.

Chair: Feel free to be dangerous. Frank?

Q95 Mr Roy: Can I move on to the relationship between the Foreign Secretary and the intelligence agencies? Under the 2010 SDSR, the intelligence priorities will be set by the National Security Council. Is that a good idea? Bearing in mind that you have both been responsible, at some point, for MI6 and GCHQ, to what extent did you, as Foreign Secretaries, give direction to the intelligence agencies that could not now be given under the new gateways?

David Miliband: I think that, in respect of the overall priorities of the intelligence agencies, they were, in my time, put together through an interdepartmental process-quite a laborious process-involving risk registers, various other rankings that were given to different problems, and arguments about which parts of the world should be in which column. That does have practical implications for the sort of resource that is devoted to them. If that is now being done through a newly named Cabinet Committee, perhaps meeting on a more systematic basis, that seems to me to be fine.

Obviously, if you are the Foreign Secretary or the Home Secretary, you have quite extensive engagement with the intelligence agencies-in our case with MI6 and GCHQ. I haven’t seen anything to suggest that there is a fettering of that role or an inability to engage. Obviously, Foreign Secretaries have to sign off individual warrants and take quite an active role in individual intelligence cases, as well as using the intelligence that is provided. There is a huge amount of expertise and experience in the intelligence agencies-not just real-time new information, but real experience and expertise-that I was very pleased to have round my table when I was trying to decipher what other countries and their leaders meant by things that they were doing.

Sir Malcolm Rifkind: I think we’re living through a very crucial period, in answer to your question. In my capacity as Chairman of the Intelligence and Security Committee, on which Ming Campbell serves, we have been looking with particular interest at the significance of the new National Security Council. My own view-I am expressing a personal view-is that the National Security Council offers an important opportunity for the first time to get a strategic oversight and proper control of the interrelationship of the Foreign Office, Defence and the intelligence agencies, as well as other aspects of national security. Although a lot of good work has been done by Governments over the years, it has never had the opportunity to be co-ordinated in the same way.

When I was Foreign Secretary, I had regular contact with the chiefs of SIS or GCHQ, but it was on a fairly ad hoc basis. It was because either they had a particular problem they wanted to discuss with me or I had some particular information that I wanted to hear from them, or something of that kind. As I understand it, what is happening now is that every week the National Security Council meets. The chiefs of the intelligence agencies are present; they are not members, but they are there as observers, so they are present regularly, as are the Chiefs of Staff, the Defence Secretary, the Foreign Secretary and the Prime Minister. They know each other far better; they are constantly seeing each other, quite apart from the bilateral meetings that might be held. If that works well-I can’t say whether it is working well, and it’s too early to do so, anyway-for the first time the intelligence input, instead of going as raw material through the Joint Intelligence Committee to be analysed, and then being sent out to a whole group of Ministers, at least now has the opportunity to be channelled and utilised in a much more focused way in order for the Government as a whole to get the benefit, and for a better strategic oversight of what is happening. The opportunity is there, but it is too early to say whether it would work.

Q96 Mr Roy: If we’re in a time of change, may I move on slightly to legislating for the Foreign Secretary’s role? Is it a good or a bad idea to set down in legislation at least some aspects-

Sir Malcolm Rifkind: That’s David Owen’s suggestion, isn’t it?

Mr Roy: Yes.

Sir Malcolm Rifkind: I think it’s a rotten idea. I generally have a lot of time for David Owen; I think he comes up with some splendid suggestions, but I don’t agree with this particular one, really for the reason that it goes to the wider issues of the British constitution. The strength of our constitution is that we allow it to evolve. The more you have legislation, the more difficult you make it for evolution to happen and the more you prevent any change that might be appropriate until you have the time for formal legislation to achieve it. I don’t see anything specific about the Foreign Secretary that makes it necessary to have his office set up in a legislative form. We don’t expect it of the Prime Minister, or of any other Minister of whom I am aware, and I don’t see any advantage of having it for the Foreign Secretary. The Prime Minister wasn’t even mentioned in statute until about 60 or 70 years ago, I think.

David Miliband: I don’t actually see what problem it’s trying to solve. If the problem is not clear, then it’s very hard to imagine that it’s a very good solution.

Mr Roy: That’s clear enough.

Chair: Staying with Frank’s question on the intelligence agencies, four colleagues have caught my eye. John.

Q97 Mr Baron: At key points in relatively recent history-one goes back to start with the Falklands, perhaps, but one can also think about the lead-up to the Iraq war, and we have heard evidence as a Committee that even in Afghanistan we underestimated the task and have been playing catch-up ever since-you have tended to be undecided with regards to intelligence on the ground. What lessons do you think there are from those periods, and from any others you want to bring up, when it comes to the gathering of intelligence and the processing of that intelligence for the decision makers in due time?

Sir Malcolm Rifkind: I think that the whole problem that emerged during the Iraq controversy must always be borne in mind. If a big mistake was made then-I am purely talking about the intelligence aspects-it was to assume that raw material could be used as a basis for trying to prove a particular point of view. That has never been the proper use of raw material. Raw intelligence is just one of many sources of information. To a very considerable extent, open sources are just as important-the BBC, for example, has a Monitoring Service picking up vast amounts of information, from the radio stations or newspapers of countries around the world, that we would not otherwise be aware of, and from that you can very easily understand what’s happening in a country in a way that you might not otherwise.

We have to look at intelligence, whether in Afghanistan or elsewhere, not just in terms of the covert role of intelligence agencies, but in terms of the whole business of understanding what is happening in a particular country. If I can relate that to the role of the Foreign Office, I would commend-for those who have not yet had a chance to see it-an article in today’s Financial Times on Iran, reporting under the 30-year rule, on a report that David Owen commissioned after the fall of the Shah as to why the intelligence had not told the British Government of the day, as well as other Governments, what was about to happen. One of the main points concluded by the reports was that the embassy was too busy just talking to the Government and the people in Tehran, and they were not trying to find out what was going on elsewhere in the country. Now, that didn’t have to be done by secret means, but it was still intelligence that was needed, which might have given a far better understanding of what was about to happen.

David Miliband: There’s a couple of things I would add which seem very sensible. One is obviously that there is a big shift in where intelligence resource is being put at the moment-that’s been going on for the past four or five years-which means that in the Afghan context we are in a stronger position than we were a few years ago. However, no country the size of Britain is going to be able to mount the necessary intelligence effort on its own. The second important point relates to the partnerships we have with other countries around the world in the intelligence field, notably with the US. It has an enormous amount of raw material to which we have privileged access; that is obviously very important. A final point: there is so much raw material that it needs to be very well synthesised and used. I think the systems for synthesis, engagement and collective memory are very important.

On what Malcolm said earlier, I had a rather more systematic engagement with SIS-certainly not ad hoc meetings-both with the chiefs and more junior officers, because they represented a remarkable set of perspectives and experience. It is worth drawing on them, even respecting the fact that they are there to provide information and evidence, not to make policy. It is worth having their perspective when you are trying to decipher what is going on.

Q98 Sir John Stanley: My question follows on from John Baron’s. Ultimately, the most important responsibility of the Foreign Office is to arrive at the correct assessments and judgments on those who might have aggressive designs against our own country and our dependent territories. From time to time, the judgments and assessments made by the Foreign Office have been grievously faulty-in the run-up to World War Two and to the Falklands, which has already been mentioned. David Miliband, you referred to the fact that there has been a serious reduction in Foreign Office resources, which will clearly continue. The question I would like to put to you both is whether you have concerns that, in these financially difficult times, the present Government will ensure that they have the right intelligence assets in place, in the right locations and in the right strength, to be able to identify threats to our country and dependent territories. [Interruption.]

Chair: I’m afraid we have to adjourn for 15 minutes. May we start again at 16.26? Will you both be able to stay for injury time after that?

Sir Malcolm Rifkind: I’m okay.

David Miliband: Could we start at twenty past?

Chair: We’ll try.

Sitting suspended for a Division in the House.

On resuming-

Q99 Chair: The position is that the witnesses were answering Sir John Stanley’s question. Do you feel that you have finished answering?

Sir Malcolm Rifkind: We haven’t started yet. We can move on to the next question if you like.

David Miliband: Briefly, on the intelligence agencies side, they have had very substantial budget increases in the last five years. I have seen no evidence that their work has been compromised, and I don’t think any Government would do that.

Obviously, on the Foreign Office side it’s a much tighter situation. The issue there is partly about people on the ground in difficult places. Perhaps 10 years ago, people would have said, "Why should we have an embassy in Yemen?" When I was Foreign Secretary, when we did our strategy refresher, the founding principle was that the first job was to attain a global network. You have to have a global network because you don’t know where trouble’s going to come. So it’s partly about people on the ground, but it’s also about the ability to synthesise, digest, analyse and then make judgments.

Governments have a very clear choice. Do they give preferential treatment to smaller Departments-a day’s NHS spending is worth practically a year’s Foreign Office spending-or do they have an across-the-board approach? Foreign Office finances are pretty unusual, not least because problems with the overseas price mechanism led to the bonus payment that was given to the Foreign Office last year. I am not sure if that’s being continued. It would be worth probing the real effect of the various changes that will happen to the Foreign Office budget.

Sir Malcolm Rifkind: I hope that the Committee will forgive me if I don’t comment on the intelligence agencies’ budget, because that is something that the Intelligence and Security Committee has already begun looking at. It would not be appropriate for me to make any comment at this stage, because we are right in the middle of the process.

As for the wider question of the Foreign Office’s own resources, if you simply look at the figures and the number of missions at which we are represented, it doesn’t look too bad compared with even 15 years ago, with roughly the same number of missions and so forth, but the point I was making at the very beginning of my evidence was that not only has the number of countries in the world increased dramatically, but when you go below the surface you find-it may seem a small example, but it is quite an important one-that the High Commissioner for Fiji is also responsible for five other countries. In theory, we have missions in six countries, but in five of them, the high commissioner or the ambassador is not even present for 95% of the time. We’re getting pretty close to stretching this particular core as far as it will go without significant difficulty.

I also believe very strongly that it is a serious mistake to close a mission in an individual country, even if it is a relatively small island or micro-state, and not just because it would be very upset, and we would be deprived of information from that particular country-that’s serious, but not necessarily conclusive. In my experience, what happens if you close a country mission in Latin America, the Caribbean or the Pacific is that the whole region feels you are losing interest in its concerns and responsibilities. British influence doesn’t just diminish in the country that you have withdrawn from; it is seen as a signal of reduced intent throughout the whole of, for example, Central America, the Caribbean or the Pacific. The price is quite a heavy one.

If we have what I hope is a temporary problem with regard to public expenditure in such areas-I say this quite seriously-I would rather see the sums required to be saved taken from our embassy in Washington or Paris, or a comparably large embassy, which I believe could absorb that, particularly if it was known that it was for a relatively short period; the Government of that country would understand that it was a temporary reduction, but we would still have a major embassy there. That would be preferable to achieving similar savings, as we have often done in the past, by protecting the very large embassies and closing some of the very small ones. That is the wrong way round.

I make one additional point, and I make it seriously. When I was Defence Secretary, Douglas Hurd, who was Foreign Secretary, approached me one day for a private conversation. I know that he won’t mind me revealing it. He asked whether it would not be sensible, given that the Foreign Office has a tiny fraction of the Ministry of Defence’s budget, if we agreed to a permanent reallocation of a tiny proportion of the MOD budget, which would transform the Foreign Office because of its much smaller starting point. As Defence Secretary, I was profoundly unimpressed with this argument. When I became Foreign Secretary, I began to see the advantages of it.

I make the point with some seriousness that if the Government have problems, they can’t just find new money. I’m not going to make unrealistic suggestions; I know that the Ministry of Defence, of all Departments, is under very serious constraint. But in our three external affairs Departments-the Foreign Office, DFID and the Ministry of Defence-a slight reallocation could make a very significant difference to the Foreign Office, which has by far the least resources of the three.

Q100 Mr Ainsworth: It’s an idea that hasn’t gone away. I think that David and I had the same problem.

Sir Malcolm Rifkind: And you gave the same response, I suspect.

Q101 Mr Ainsworth: I worry sometimes that we are deluding ourselves about what we can and can’t do. People say "No strategic shrinkage," but the budgets are going down and our embassies are being expected to do more and different things-they are told "Emphasise trade and sell things. The country’s in difficulty. Do that rather than core diplomacy." The defence budget is going down. Delusion is not a plan. It’s all right saying, "We should punch above our weight," but there are a lot of people who are not impressed by that. I don’t know how we square off, "There will be no strategic shrinkage," with the circumstances in which we find ourselves. I don’t want to see Britain anything other than great, but I don’t want to see us deluded either.

Sir Malcolm Rifkind: I would conclude that we do want to remain, in the famous phrase, "Punching above our weight," and I say that not for reasons of nostalgia for the past or delusions of imperial grandeur, or anything of that kind. I say it for two reasons. I think that the United Kingdom has certain unique qualities to offer. There are very few countries in the world that have a combination of genuine respect for and generations of experience of the rule of law, observance of human rights and democratic principles, as well as high diplomatic expertise and military capability that enables us to deploy in a military way, albeit in a modest way, around the world. The United States is light years ahead of us, France is at the same sort of level as us, and Germany is similar obviously in diplomatic strength but not in military potential. I think that the world would be a poorer place and the United Nations would have fewer assets at its disposal in the resolution of international problems, if the United Kingdom was not there.

Where you are right, Bob, is on the cost. There is a price tag that goes with it, and I suppose that the political question is, "Are the public-never mind the politicians-willing to pay the additional cost?" I think that, so far, the evidence is yes, they are. I don’t see any serious argument that because, even after these cuts, our defence expenditure is considerably higher than that of almost any country in Europe, apart from France and Greece-and Greece is a special case-or any real public pressure for it to go further in a profound way. I don’t see any public pressure to see our Foreign Office or DFID expenditure seriously reduced, given the consequences that would flow from that. That might change, but it is not there at the moment, even though we have such controversial wider issues of public expenditure and the implications of cuts elsewhere.

David Miliband: I think that it’s very important that we don’t talk about a global role if we’re not willing to fund it. I haven’t gone as far as Malcolm has in saying, "Never close posts," because sometimes strategy requires that you remain big players in the big places. But I think that if you can get to the bottom of what the current round of cuts actually means in cash terms, and put that against the demands, that’s going to be very revealing. By my time, the Foreign Office had been having, I think, a 1% a year cash increases for 10 years, which is a real-terms cut. The list of things that we were then looking at, in the face of significant budgetary pressure, was pretty tough medicine. That’s where talk about strategy and the reality of what you’re able to spend come into dangerous conflict.

Q102 Mike Gapes: Can I just press you on that issue of the relationship with the Treasury? Over the last 12 years, since 1998, these public service agreements have been brought in, with tick boxes for every Department, including the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. In several reports in the previous Parliament, we were very critical, and said "This Treasury obsession is not very appropriate for a Department that has to deal with global issues and unexpected events in other countries." Can I ask you, David, to give us an insight into how you felt these public objectives made any difference to the way in which the Foreign and Commonwealth Office worked?

David Miliband: I think that the process of having to explain what you’re for, what you exist for and what you’re trying to achieve over a three to five-year period is useful. I don’t think it’s useful if it becomes a tick-box exercise. Frankly, it is very low down on the public list of understanding when set against stories of great waltzing canapé evenings at the French embassy, and I’m afraid the PR damage of the Foreign Office estate far outweighs the number of reports you can publish about how many boxes you are ticking.

As it happens, having places that people want to come to, rather than places that people don’t want to come to, is an important part of diplomacy, and in a lot of the places, we are renting for peppercorn rates etcetera. But I think that the PR handling is a problem, because while people do want to give money to defence, and they can see reasons for giving money to development; money for diplomats is the not the easiest thing to argue for.

Q103 Mike Gapes: Did this system of performance reporting and measurement that you also brought in help the way that you or the Department were able to work?

David Miliband: I think that in Departments where there were more obvious and short-term delivery measures, they would have been more useful than in a Department where influence, effort and delivery are harder to measure. How do you rank avoiding a war in the Balkans? How do you rank avoiding a civil war in Macedonia? Those things are not easy to measure and probably shouldn’t be measured, but they are worth doing. I think that that is important.

Sir Malcolm Rifkind: I am not quite how one reconciles saying, "You shouldn’t measure them, but they are worth doing." Frankly, I’m not sure that they are worth doing.

David Miliband: Avoiding civil war in Macedonia?

Sir Malcolm Rifkind: No, no, I am talking about the performance standards that the Treasury insists on. I have no problem with a Government Department being expected to justify how it spends its money and to show that there is value for money. It seems manifestly clear that the kind of criteria that the Foreign Office would have to apply would be dramatically different, for the reasons that David rightly refers to, to a spending Department or a Department with other purposes. The Foreign Office may be able, in an ingenious way, to actually offer some other tests that should be applied to judge whether it is meeting good value-for-money criteria, but unless somebody can think of what these are-I don’t choose even to try and volunteer them-I think it’s a pretty foolish waste of everyone’s time.

David Miliband: Chairman, could I just make one other point that has occurred to me on the drive to cut down the "bureaucratic costs"-bureaucracy costs and back office? Essentially that’s people.

Sir Malcolm Rifkind: That’s fine.

David Miliband: No, I don’t think it is fine in diplomacy, because that is what you spend the money on. Actually, you can make a similar case-I think people argue this-that, given the rise in the DFID budget, cuts in people numbers can create problems, because you’re spending increasing amounts of money with less accountability for it. On the Foreign Office side, I’d be wary of arguments that say that back office equals bureaucracy. It doesn’t necessarily. It could be policy analysts and all sorts of other people who are absolutely essential to making a people Department work.

Q104 Mike Gapes: So clearly this Treasury-driven model, which applied to all Government Departments, was not an appropriate one for a Department like the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, which is very much people-centred?

David Miliband: Cutting civil service numbers by 5%-I can’t remember what it was-doesn’t make much sense, unless you specify what you want. For us, in the Foreign Office, the front line can be the people sitting in London receiving cables and analysing issues.

Sir Malcolm Rifkind: I was once told that a model was a small imitation of the real thing, and I think that the Treasury, if it has this model-I haven’t studied this in detail, so I have to be cautious-

Q105 Mike Gapes: It didn’t apply.

Sir Malcolm Rifkind: It didn’t apply in our case.

Q106 Mike Gapes: You didn’t have anything comparable.

Sir Malcolm Rifkind: Well, we may have done equally foolish things, but this wasn’t one of them. If the way in which this is operated-I am not an expert here-has been in a fairly uniform way, I think it is ludicrous to try to apply similar criteria to the Foreign Office, because of the nature of how you judge success or failure in any particular area.

Q107 Mike Gapes: Can I just take you back one point? You mentioned in passing the overseas price mechanism. Clearly, that was a big issue of disagreement with the Treasury, which changed the basis on which the FCO was compensated. In retrospect, is there anything you can say now about how you feel that worked?

David Miliband: It was a disagreement that was never resolved, because the mechanism was unilaterally imposed, but never finally agreed. There were continuing "hostilities" around the overseas price mechanism. I think £75 million was put in to plug the gap in the Foreign Office budget about a year ago.

Mike Gapes: At the end of the financial year.

David Miliband: That’s right-the end of the last financial year. Under our Government, the fundamental issue was put into the next spending review for resolution, but clearly it’s no way to run your budgets to be dependent on what your exchange rate is.

Q108 Sir John Stanley: I want to come to the role of the Foreign Office as seen by the present Government. The Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary have made it quite clear that they want a big new role in terms of trade promotion being carried out by the Foreign Office. Do you agree or not that that must inevitably be, to a degree, at the expense of taking a firm and strong line on human rights in countries such as China and Russia? I know the Foreign Office loves to think you can somehow combine the two and go happily through the motions on human rights while turning a blind eye and helping the sales side, but for real, if you’re going to take a really strong, robust and particularly public line on human rights against those sorts of countries, that is possibly going to be, in real terms, detrimental to your trade interests. How do you see those two things being reconciled, with a greater emphasis on trade?

Sir Malcolm Rifkind: I would make two responses to that. First, there’s no problem at all, I believe, in an embassy having embedded in it people from those Government Departments whose primary responsibility is trade, business or investment. That’s their expertise and if they wish to be provided with facilities in our embassies, I am strongly in favour of that; but if the question relates to the role of the ambassador and the diplomatic staff, their function and expertise are quite different, and I think the public interest would greatly suffer if they were required to spend a substantial proportion of their time on those matters.

The question of the link between business and trade and human rights goes back, in a sense, to the whole question of a so-called ethical foreign policy. This country, under successive Governments, has always accepted the need for a balanced approach to these matters. We have standards involving human rights; we have a legitimate interest in expanding trade. You have to make a judgment in each individual case as to whether it is immoral or unacceptable on ethical grounds to encourage or to support trade of a particular kind.

There is a particular point I would make in addition to that, however. I think that the link between the two is not so much in human rights in the absolute sense, but in so far as the rule of law is part of our public policy, I believe that those countries that do not have proper respect for the rule of law and an independent judiciary will increasingly suffer with regard to investment in their country from other parts of the world. The most obvious example at this time is Russia. We have the Khodorkovsky issue at this very moment. Russia is, sadly, demonstrating an increasing contempt under the present Government for a genuine independent judiciary. That is affecting the private sector in Russia, but it’s also affecting foreign companies. Increasingly, as I understand it, foreign companies not just from Britain but from other parts of the world are reluctant to consider investment in Russia until they can be satisfied that remedies will be available that will not depend on political interference if they have problems not just with other companies, but with the Government of the country that they are dealing with.

If I may be allowed just one example, when I was Foreign Secretary, I had to negotiate with the Chinese Foreign Minister about the handover of Hong Kong. It was the very final stage of that negotiation, and on one occasion I had a session with Qian Qichen, the then Foreign Minister. I said to him, "Look. What the people of Hong Kong are concerned about is not just having a number of political parties to vote for. It’s also that they will continue to enjoy the rule of law." I knew what I meant. He then said to me, "Don’t worry, Mr Rifkind. We in China also believe in the rule of law-the people must obey the law." I had to point out to him that our understanding of that phrase was not just the people obeying the law, but the Government obeying the law as well. He not only didn’t agree; he couldn’t understand. The very concept of the Government not being able to change a law they disapproved of at their own whim was foreign to his thinking. I think that is very relevant to the question of the balance between investment opportunities and human rights as expressed by rule-of-law concepts.

David Miliband: Can I just go back to something that Malcolm Rifkind said at the beginning of his introductory remarks? I think there is quite a lot that is specious about successive Governments who come in and say that they are going to have, to quote Sir John Stanley, "a big new role" on trade. Anyone who has been to any embassy in the world knows that it is an important part of the work of a diplomatic mission to promote trade-including the role of the ambassador. That is important. What companies want from an ambassador is real understanding of the political scene and who are the movers and shakers. They don’t actually care whether the ambassador is a business man or not. The worst thing would be to have third-rate business men replacing first-rate diplomats as our ambassadors.

Let me make another point, though, about the human rights and trade issue. I believe that countries like China expect to have a relationship with Britain that is about more than trade. They expect us to be partners of theirs in the United Nations Security Council. The expect us to have a world view. They expect us to have a position on the big issues of the day, and they expect us to have resources-diplomatic, intelligence, military, soft-power, cultural resources-that address the big questions. We kid ourselves if we think we’re going to do well at trade by retreating to become simply a group of tradesmen and women. In my view, we will diminish our trading possibilities with China, as well as elsewhere, if we think that just going on and on about trade will increase it. It won’t. The way you have influence is through long-term relationships on big issues that matter to other countries. China cares about its own stability and about regional stability. It also cares about its place in the UN, and we have to be players on those scenes. If we are not, we will become not like France, but sort of sub-France. Low-grade mercantilism is not a foreign policy.

Q109 Sir Menzies Campbell: I was going to ask questions about the National Security Council, but I think that you indicated, Sir Malcolm, that you feel it’s perhaps a little early to say. Perhaps I can address some of those questions to Mr Miliband. I then have a general question that I would like to ask you both.

Have you given any thought to the impact that the establishment of the National Security Council may have on the Foreign Office?

David Miliband: Well, some. I don’t think it’s a giant leap for mankind to have a Cabinet Committee that deals with foreign policy. The National Security and International Development Committee that Bob Ainsworth and I sat on looks pretty like the National Security Council. However, I think we should say to the Government that it is good if indeed it is meeting weekly and if indeed it is systematic in the way that is advertised. That is a good thing. I say to anyone who thinks that Cabinet Committees are the answers to every problem that they are necessary but not sufficient to get the right answer. I think it is the substance of what we are trying to achieve that is important alongside the processology, and I think there has been a bit too much processology in some of the evidence that has come to you. As we have just been discussing in respect of trade and other issues, you need to have a position, not just a committee.

I think that the Foreign Office as an institution succeeds or fails by the quality of the work that it is able to provide. Malcolm referred earlier in passing to The Economist and the Financial Times and global media. If the Foreign Office is simply producing what any intelligent person can find on the web, it is not justifying its existence. It has to have the long-term understanding of trends in societies and regions that enable it to make a distinctive contribution, both in analysing what’s going on and what’s going to happen.

Critically, from my point of view, what will different countries do if we do different things? Malcolm just mentioned Russia. On three or four occasions in my three years as Foreign Secretary-first of all with the Litvinenko affair, then with Georgia and the British Council closing-a big question for us was, "If we do x, what will be the Russian response?" You need people who’ve followed Russia for a very long time. I think that the question of whether the Foreign Office will thrive or not in the National Security Council or not depends on the extent to which it is able to deliver on its core mission, which is to know and understand things that other people don’t.

Sir Malcolm Rifkind: Can I just make one point on that? I think that the National Security Council is wider than just Foreign Affairs, Defence and DFID. It also includes the Home Office, internal security and counter-terrorism issues. That is crucial.

David Miliband: So did ours, actually.

Sir Malcolm Rifkind: Point taken-but what is important is that you have a body that meets with the breadth and the regularity of the National Security Council, incorporating the intelligence agencies, the Chiefs of Staff and so forth, so that you get a single corporate view evolving. That is how it should work. I think it’s working like that, from what I can gather, but that will have to be reflected on in the months to come.

David Miliband: I almost guarantee that within three years it will be meeting fortnightly or monthly, because it is important to have a strategic view if it’s the National Security Council. Day-to-day operational issues are not going to be dealt with in that committee-let’s be honest-and day-to-day tactics in Helmand province are not going to be decided in that committee. I hope that it becomes a systematic strategic body of real weight, and due credit to the Government for trying to achieve that.

Q110 Sir Menzies Campbell: I suspect that neither of you would demur if I said that you are really saying that the quality of its decision making will depend on the quality of the information that is supplied to it.

David Miliband: And the judgments of the people sitting on it.

Q111 Sir Menzies Campbell: Let me ask you this slightly more personal question-were there any occasions in your respective times in the Foreign Office when, with the benefit of hindsight, you think you might have benefited from the existence of a National Security Council to give the wider strategic context that you have described?

Sir Malcolm Rifkind: If I can comment, I think that, for example, during the whole period when Bosnia was one of the dominant issues that was being addressed by the Government in the mid-1990s, we did not at that time have the ongoing, systematic and direct involvement of the chiefs of the intelligence agencies and the Chiefs of Staff sitting with the Prime Minister, as well as the Foreign Secretary and the Defence Secretary, and I think that there would have been value in that. Of course, we saw all the people I have mentioned in bilateral meetings and on different occasions, but, in the sense of getting a coherent Government position that could continue with maximum exposure to the expertise that was available, the current arrangements are an improvement and an advantage.

David Miliband: I’m a believer in systematic, structured engagement between colleagues. It would be a brave person who says that the committee structure could not have been improved to make it more systematic and more able to look round the corners at what was coming next. One example is that between 2002 to 2005, whatever you think about Iraq, what was happening in Afghanistan did not get the international attention that it deserved in that period. Would a British National Security Council on its own have made the difference? It’s impossible to tell, but that is the sort of issue where it is very important to have systematic, structured engagement.

From my point of view, there is a very delicate judgment to be made about our national security interest and the defence of the country and the priority we give to Afghanistan-Pakistan relative to other areas where al-Qaeda is organising. The National Security Council will have to weigh carefully the Yemens and Somalias of this world, against the Afghanistans and the Pakistans of this world-not necessarily for military engagement, because no one is talking about military engagement in Somalia or in Yemen. But I think-as a British citizen I would hope-that the National Security Council can weigh those issues in a very serious way.

Chair: You have both been very generous with your time. I still have two groups of questions that we are wanting to ask. Are you able to stay here until 5 o’clock? So, if we speed it up a bit, we should be able to get through all our questions.

Q112 Andrew Rosindell: As Foreign Secretaries, you have obviously had to work with other Departments. First, could you reflect on how effective that is in to having to deal with other Departments to implement policies that the Foreign Office is responsible for? Can I particularly ask for your views on DFID? It was said by Sir Edward Clay that, "DFID has sometimes behaved as an alternative overseas representative of HMG." If we are going to be effective in terms of cost and influence, do we have the right structure in having DFID, the Foreign Office and other Departments doing different things?

Sir Malcolm Rifkind: On the first point that you raised, I remember being struck, when I used to go to European Union Council of Ministers meetings, by being told by quite a number of my European colleagues that what they found unusual, if not unique, about the United Kingdom was that it did not matter which Minister they spoke to and which Department he represented in the British Government; they would get the same line as to what the Government’s policy was. There was a Government policy, and it was sufficiently well co-ordinated that they always got the same response. That was not true for most other countries, not because they were better or worse than us, but because they had a different tradition and-I hesitate to make my next point-partly because most of them were coalition Governments, which inevitably had consequences.

Sir Menzies Campbell: Between us, we’re overcoming it now.

Sir Malcolm Rifkind: We may be overcoming that. It was also partly a tradition in a lot of other countries that Departments kept information to themselves and did not share it, unless they had to, with other Departments. In the British Government, if I sent a message to the Prime Minister, it was automatically copied, unless I especially asked for it not to be, to every other Minister-in Defence or the Home Office or wherever-who might have an interest in that. So the whole Government knew, or was supposed to know, what was going on. That simply doesn’t exist in the same way in most other European Union countries; certainly not to the same degree. I think that that is an advantage in terms of the British Government pursuing, through diplomatic means, their objectives. It has the full weight of Government behind whichever Minister who happens to be taking the lead.

David Miliband: Briefly, in response to Andrew’s question, a lot depends on politics. When the politicians co-operate, it sends a very important message. Bob Ainsworth, myself and Douglas Alexander made it a point that we met, discussed and minuted out meetings of just the three of us, and that’s a very important signal.

Secondly, the soggy centre in any organisation will always want to defend its turf. That can happen in the Foreign Office, DFID or any Department. Part of the job of leadership is to root out the soggy centre and make sure that it has the right kind of culture.

Thirdly, my experience on the ground in the toughest places is that the interdepartmental co-operation is remarkable. In Afghanistan and in tough places around the world, it’s clear that people haven’t got time for turf wars. The ambassador or high commissioner leads the British diplomatic effort. The head of DFID actually has a delivery job to do and has to focus on that job, and shouldn’t be trying to substitute for what the ambassador or high commissioner is doing.

My own view is that the creation of DFID has been of huge benefit to the UK and can be a benefit to the Foreign Office. There is plenty for a Foreign Secretary and his minions to be concerned with around the world, and given that the aid budget is now up to 0.5% of GDP-it is a massively increased budget-you need dedicated focus to spend that properly.

Q113 Andrew Rosindell: I have one quick question in a specific area to ask you both. Do you think how the Foreign Office, DFID and other Departments such as DEFRA work is effective in our Overseas Territories? Are they the forgotten end of the Foreign Office, or are they treated in a way that they should be treated, as British territories in a modern world?

Sir Malcolm Rifkind: I think there is a danger of "out of sight, out of mind". When I was Foreign Secretary, DFID-then the ODA-came under the Foreign Office, but Lynda Chalker, who was in charge of the ODA, was effectively a Minister who ran her own affairs. She had the same relationship with me as I had with the Prime Minister: in other words, she kept me informed, occasionally we worked together, but she was left to get on and do her job. That way, there was the right linkage between the diplomatic and developmental aspects. So I am not as much of an enthusiast for the independent Ministry of DFID as David is, because I am not entirely convinced it was necessary.

David Miliband: On the Overseas Territories, per head of population, they get more attention than other parts of the world, but that’s right, because they are British citizens. It is important that we take their security and prosperity needs seriously. Not least because of some of the international drive for financial transparency, there is a healthy growth of accountability and audit and of concern about what is happening in the Overseas Territories. I think that that is going to be a long-term benefit. Given the Falklands experience, no one is going to allow out of sight to become out of mind, because the dangers are obvious.

Q114 Mr Watts: David, I hear your answer that you think that the creation of DFID was the right thing to do and Britain has benefited from that change. Not everyone agrees with that. One of the witnesses that we’ve had suggested that, for example, the aid budget was one of the tools that the diplomats used to use, or could use, to push people in the right direction. Do you accept that that loss of influence has been affected by the creation of DFID and the separation?

David Miliband: I don’t, actually. If you think about Pakistan, which I think has the second largest aid budget in all of DFID’s spending, I know that the British high commissioner and the head of DFID in that country are working hand in glove together. But there is someone with development expertise and real experience, and a team that is dug in on the ground, to make sure that money is well spent. That is simply not my experience, and I don’t agree.

Chair: Time has caught up with us. We’ve still got one or two questions that we want to ask you. If you don’t mind, we will drop a line to ask you to briefly address our concerns. Rory is desperate to go.

Rory Stewart: I have a radio interview at 5 past 5.

David Miliband: There is the tyranny of the modern 24-hour news cycle.

Chair: Thank you very much indeed.