The Role of the FCO in UK Government

Written evidence from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office


The Government’s vision for foreign policy

On 1 July 2010, in the first of a series of speeches in which he set out the Government’s vision of foreign affairs, the Foreign Secretary spoke of:

"…a distinctive British foreign policy that is active in Europe and across the world; that builds up British engagement in parts of the globe where opportunities as well as threats increasingly lie; that is at ease within a networked world and harnesses the full potential of our cultural links, and that promotes our national interest while recognising that this cannot be narrowly or selfishly defined."

Achieving this will involve the FCO playing a strong role across Government from the National Security Council down. HMG’s foreign policy will be shaped and delivered according to a strategic concept which takes into account national security, prosperity, and British values, and which is designed to make the most of the opportunities of the 21st Century.

The Government has also made clear that its first task is to return the economy to sustained growth and to tackle the budget deficit. The restoration of our economic fortune is essential to our foreign policy, because the economic standing of a nation is a fundamental foundation of its foreign policy success. The Government rejects the thesis of Britain’s decline in the world. It believes that the UK should become even more active overseas and that it should make the most, systematically and strategically, of our great national assets.

Implementing this vision

The FCO and its worldwide network of embassies is well placed to support this vision. British diplomats have world-class skills in understanding and influencing what is happening abroad, supporting our citizens who are travelling and living overseas, helping to manage migration into Britain, promoting British trade and other interests abroad and encouraging foreign investment in the UK.

The Foreign Secretary and the Prime Minister agreed in July that the FCO will pursue an active and activist foreign policy, working with other countries and strengthening the rules-based international system in support of British values to:

· Safeguard Britain s national security by countering terrorism and weapons proliferation, and working to reduce conflict .

· Build Britain s prosperity by increasing exports and investment, opening markets, ensuring access to resources, and promoting sustainable global growth .

· Support British nationals around the world through modern and efficient consular services.

In common with other government departments, the FCO has now published its Business Plan setting out the most important objectives for the FCO in the Coalition Agreement, together with its structural reform plan, expenditure and its commitment to transparency.

The FCO will publish monthly progress reports on how it is meeting the commitments set out in its structural reform plan. The Business Plan also contains a section describing the transparency indicators by which taxpayers can assess the efficiency and productivity of the FCO effort.

The FCO Business Plan sets out five structural reform priorities:

· Protect and promote the UK’s national interest. Shape a distinctive British foreign policy geared to the national interest, retain and build up Britain’s international influence in specific areas, and build stronger bilateral relations across the board with key selected countries to enhance our security and prosperity.

· Contribute to the success of Britain’s effort in Afghanistan. Support our military forces abroad, protect British national security from threats emanating from the region, create the conditions to shift to non-military strategy in Afghanistan and withdrawal of UK combat troops by 2015, and support the stability of Pakistan.

· Reform the machinery of government in foreign policy. Establish a National Security Council (NSC) as the centre of decision-making on all international and national security issues, and help to implement the foreign policy elements of the National Security Strategy and the Strategic Defence and Security Review.

· Pursue an active and activist British policy in Europe. Advance the British national interest through an effective EU policy in priority areas, engaging constructively while protecting our national sovereignty.

· Use ‘soft power’ to promote British values, advance development and prevent conflict. Use ‘soft power’ as a tool of UK foreign policy; expand the UK Government’s contribution to conflict prevention; promote British values, including human rights; and contribute to the welfare of developing countries.

Since May, the FCO is focussing in particular on the following immediate tasks:

· To get to grips with the war in Afghanistan and to improve the coordination and delivery of the strategy here in Whitehall and internationally. The FCO is investing a huge amount of time and resource on Afghanistan, and it is featuring regularly in the deliberations of the NSC. Previous FCO Memoranda to the FAC set out the detail of the UK contribution to the international effort on Afghanistan.

· To demonstrate FCO leadership in the NSC through strong FCO representation and input into all its decisions. The NSC has established a regular and intensive schedule of meetings in which the FCO is fully and actively engaged. The FCO has written around half of all papers that have come before the NSC to date, and has provided foreign policy advice in the preparation of papers that are written by other departments.

· To assume a leadership role in the Strategic Defence and Security Review (SDSR) which goes wider than defence issues and covers all aspects of national security. The Foreign Secretary has secured the Whitehall lead on three out of the ten priority areas mentioned in the SDSR – Building Stability Overseas (Foreign Policy), State Threats and Counter-Proliferation, Security Impacts of Climate Change and Resource Competition. No other Minister holds the lead on more areas. The SDSR has tasked the FCO to lead a process to producing integrated strategies for key countries and regions. The highest priority strategies will be agreed by the National Security Council in order to ensure that they are supported by all relevant government departments, reflect agreed priorities, and are appropriately resourced .

· To put in motion the elevation of key bilateral relationships with major emerging powers, including major partners such as India and China, but also in other areas of the world such as the Gulf, in North Africa, in Latin America where the FCO can start to give new momentum to those relationships. A NSC (Emerging Powers) Sub-Committee chaired by the Foreign Secretary has now been established to give strategic oversight to this work. Together with UKTI, the FCO has also established a new Commercial Diplomacy Task Force to give a renewed determination to embed a commercial culture across the FCO.

· To show as a new Government that the UK is highly active and activist in the European Union, playing a positive and energetic role, working closely with European partners to ensure that the European Union can use its collective weight in the world as effectively as it can. Examples include showing ambition in tackling carbon emissions in international climate negotiations, building on the EU-Korea trade agreement as a model for agreements with others, and pressing for respect for human rights around the world, for example in Burma.

Budgetary Issues

The 2010 Comprehensive Spending Review will allow the FCO to take forward work on these priorities, and to maintain its global network of posts. But the settlement will require hard choices of the FCO, as it will of other government departments. The FCO is determined to meet these challenges through driving efficiency from every aspect of its expenditure and clearly prioritising its activities to support the delivery of HMG’s objectives overseas. The decision to establish a new Foreign Currency Mechanism will provide the FCO with stability in budgeting and managing exchange rate fluctuations. At the same time, the Foreign Secretary is determined that the FCO can show a very disciplined and efficient record of using its resources, and to do it in an exemplary fashion. The FCO is determined to work with other government departments to ensure that it has a truly whole of government approach to achieving these international priorities.

The FCO is pleased that the FAC has chosen to launch this inquiry into its role in the UK Government. This memorandum is intended to set out in greater detail what the FCO is currently doing and intends to do to put this vision and framework into practice.


FAC QUESTION: Given the policy framework established by the new National Security Strategy (NSS), the creation of the NSC and the 2010 SDSR, what should the FCO’s role now be, and how should the Department relate to other parts of Government?

The Government rapidly moved to establish the NSC in May 2010 in order to give coherence to the increasing international activity of many domestic departments of Government so that it can take a firm and urgent grip on the wider strategic needs of the country. In October, the NSC agreed a new National Security Strategy (NSS) and SDSR in October 2010 to determine in a systematic fashion how the UK should secure its international influence and prosperity in a world that is rapidly changing. This work has identified key trends and ensured that the UK has the right capabilities to minimise risks to British citizens and remain adaptable in its security posture.

The SDSR recognised that to adapt and respond to national security threats and opportunities, the UK needs an active foreign policy and strong representation abroad.  It agreed that the UK needs to maintain its global diplomatic network, which is sharply focussed on promoting Britain’s national security and prosperity.  It sets out a clear direction for the FCO which:

· Confirms the FCO’s core priorities of pursuing an active and activist foreign policy, working with other countries and strengthening the rules-based international system in support of our values to safeguard the UK’s national security, build UK prosperity and support UK nationals around the world.

· Places a new emphasis on commercial diplomacy.

· Provides a mandate to improve coordination of all UK work overseas under the leadership of the Ambassador or High Commissioner representing UK government as a whole.

· Suggests refocussing resources on those countries most important to UK security and prosperity, whether major economic players or fragile states in need of UK support.

· Advocates greater use of new, flexible forms of diplomacy to allow us to develop more regional approaches where relevant, or rapid responses to serious consular incidents, or crises.

· Promotes the continued relevance of the BBC and the British Council to achieving foreign policy objectives.

More specifically, the SDSR names the FCO as lead Department for three out of the ten priority areas it identifies – Building Stability Overseas (Foreign Policy Aspects); State Threats and Counter-Proliferation; and the Security Impacts of Climate Change and Resource Competition.  Work within this framework will be an active response to the challenges posed by a changing world including:

· The shift of economic power and opportunity to the countries of the East and South; to the emerging powers of Brazil, India, China and other parts of Asia and to increasingly significant economies such as Turkey and Indonesia. By 2050 emerging economies could be up to 50% larger than those of the current G7.

· The widening circle of international decision-making. Decisions made previously in the G8 are now negotiated within the G20, and this Government will be at the forefront of those arguing for the expansion of the United Nations Security Council. The views of emerging powers are critical to tackling the big foreign policy and global economic issues, but they do not always agree with the UK approach, making energetic and effective diplomacy even more necessary.

· The increasing complexity of protecting UK security in the face of new threats. The immense benefits of trade and the movement of people can mask the activity of those who use the tools of globalisation to destructive or criminal ends and are able to use almost any part of the world as a platform to do so. No more striking example of this has been seen in recent history than in Afghanistan, but the UK needs to look ahead to other parts of the world which are at risk of similar exploitation.

· The changing nature of conflict. UK Armed Forces are currently involved in fighting insurgencies or wars-amongst-the-people rather than state to state conflict. They are involved in counter-piracy operations rather than sea battles, the projection of force overseas rather than homeland-based defence. The security threats themselves are more widely dispersed in parts of the world which are often difficult to access, lawless and in some cases failing, where the absence of governance feeds into a cycle of conflict and danger that is difficult to arrest but which seems likely to grow in the future.

· The increasing importance of non-state actors in a networked world. New non-state actors, both individuals and groups have increased the circle of players the UK needs to influence.

The FCO plays a leading role in the NSC and its Sub-Committees, including the Emerging Powers Sub-Committee which is chaired by the Foreign Secretary. In the NSC the FCO brings together its deep understanding of international affairs, and provides analysis and advice which draws on that understanding. As a result NSC decisions are anchored in a clear understanding of the foreign policy imperatives and their implications.

The FCO leads on drafting NSC papers on international policy and contributes to a range of papers where other government departments lead the drafting.  Similarly the FCO leads on implementing NSC decisions on international policy and works closely with other government departments to deliver cross-Whitehall strategies for building political and economic relations with key partners and ensured a joined-up approach to the conduct of foreign policy: elevating entire relationships with individual countries in a systematic fashion – not just in diplomacy but in education, health, civil society, commerce and where appropriate in defence.

FAC Question: How should the Foreign Secretary’s claim to be putting the FCO "back where it belongs at the centre of Government" be assessed?

This Government will provide a distinctive British foreign policy that focuses squarely on the national interest, and will shape the FCO to achieve this. The FCO is giving a confident lead to foreign policy thinking across government, strengthening Britain’s bilateral relationships, building up British influence in the world and successfully promoting the UK economy. The first fruits of this new approach are already being seen in a number of ways including successful Prime Ministerial visits to China and India which strengthened our bilateral relationship with these key partners and delivered £1.25 billion of contracts.

Action to further British interests overseas is being co-ordinated by the FCO. When any Minister travels overseas they are working with the FCO to advance common economic and foreign policy goals as well as their own departmental objectives. This is a planned process to secure the UK’s economic recovery and to address international challenges even more effectively, using the FCO’s diplomatic resources to the full to project our influence and deliver services to British citizens in a networked world.

Over the last six months, the FCO has been giving an energetic lead to this new foreign policy. Examples include:

· In two major speeches in London, the Foreign Secretary set out the strategic direction of the Coalition’s foreign policy, and on how the UK’s foreign policy will stand up for British values internationally.

· The Foreign Secretary has established a solid and substantive relationship with US Secretary of State Clinton through a number of contacts including two visits to Washington (May and November). He gave a major speech on international security in a networked world in Georgetown University during his November visit.

· The Foreign Secretary visited Japan in July to highlight the importance of the UK-Japan bilateral relationship to the UK economy, including addressing the issue of non-tariff barriers. During the visit he gave a major speech on Britain’s prosperity in a networked world. The Foreign Secretary underlined HMG support for BAE Systems, as part of the Eurofighter consortium, in bidding to supply Japan’s future fighter aircraft. The Foreign Secretary also underlined the UK's strong support for the approach of both the Republic of Korea and Japan towards North Korea.

· The Foreign Secretary and the Vietnamese Deputy Prime Minister launched the UK-Vietnam Strategic Partnership Declaration in September elevating cooperation in key areas such as global and regional issues, trade and investment, sustainable development, education and training, science and technology, security and defence and people to people links.

· The Foreign Secretary launched the Gulf initiative in June 2010 to strengthen regional security and to improve commercial, economic, cultural and educational ties. The first ministerial meeting, chaired by FCO Minister Alistair Burt, took place in July bringing together Ministers from eight government departments. This period has seen an intense series of visits and exchanges with the Gulf including an inward State Visit by the Emir of Qatar and a State Visit of HM The Queen to the United Arab Emirates and Oman.

· The Foreign Secretary visited Russia in October and launched a Knowledge Partnership between Britain and Russia. This will promote UK business, science and education as key partners in Russia’s modernisation, identify and tackle barriers to trade, promote opportunities for new investment, and stimulate contacts between UK and Russian educational and research establishments.

· As a result of a firm UK lead, backed up by FCO lobbying, the September European Council issued a Declaration concerning support for Pakistan following the floods, which included an ambitious new trade package.

· The FCO led in achievement of a new package of EU sanctions on Iran in June and worked across Government to ensure the effective implementation of these sanctions.

· The Foreign Secretary co-chaired a Friends of Yemen meeting in New York in September, which was also attended by FCO Minister Alistair Burt and Alan Duncan, Minister of State for International Development.

· The Foreign Secretary visited Serbia with the German Foreign Minister in August to underline our resolve that the map of the Balkans is now final. The Foreign Secretary urged the Serbian Government to support a UN General Assembly Resolution on Kosovo which was subsequently adopted by consensus in September.

· The Foreign Secretary chaired a ministerial meeting of the United Nations Security Council in November to create a sense of urgency and to focus international attention on the importance of a peaceful and credible referendum on the future of Southern Sudan, and on the situation in Darfur.

The FCO’s monthly progress reports on how it is meeting the commitments will also provide indicators for assessment. The Business Plan also contains a section describing the transparency indicators by which taxpayers can assess the efficiency and productivity of the FCO effort.

The Business Plan clearly identifies Afghanistan as a priority area for the FCO, working closely with other government departments, in particular the Ministry of Defence (MOD) and DFID. The Government has committed to keeping Parliament regularly informed about progress in Afghanistan through monthly written updates and quarterly oral updates. These updates are prepared by the FCO, MOD and DFID and presented alternately by the three Secretaries of State.

FAC QUESTION: Especially given the spending constraints set out in the 2010 Comprehensive Spending Review (CSR), how – if at all – could the FCO better organise and utilise its financial and human resources so as to fulfil its role?

Resource Allocation  

The Foreign Secretary is clear that the FCO must use the Spending Review to maintain a modern, effective network, with global reach, which must remain at the heart of a successful UK foreign policy.  The FCO will allocate the settlement in accordance with the foreign policy priorities set out by the Foreign Secretary: an active and activist foreign policy, working with other countries and strengthening the rules-based international system to safeguard security, build prosperity, and support British nationals abroad, and our determination to sustain a strong global network. The FCO is committed to making the investment needed to keep staff safe and develop the skills they need to do their jobs, wherever they are located.

The Spending Review settlement will require the FCO to change how it operates, to make real choices, to cut spending on administration, to continue to reduce its workforce, and to get maximum value from every pound spent.

The FCO Board is in the process of making recommendations to Ministers on allocating resources for FY 2011/12 and making indicative allocations for the rest of the Spending Review period. Directors General will then make allocations to the Directors who report to them, and the Directors will allocate resources to the posts they are responsible for. This process will be complete by the end of FY 2010/11.  In allocating resources the FCO will seek to maximise efficiency and effectiveness in areas in which it will work jointly with other government departments, for example the promotion of British trade and investment.  It will also take into account the contribution the FCO will make to events such as the 2012 Olympics during the Spending Review period.

Human Resources

Within the constraints of the Spending Review settlement, the FCO intends to invest to build a strong institution for the future.  The FCO’s people strategy is designed to build a dynamic, flexible and professional workforce to meet the FCO’s objectives; to be a good employer; and to provide a professional and efficient HR service to staff and managers.  It should continue to attract the most talented entrants from diverse backgrounds.  The FCO will maintain a rigorous approach to promotion through assessment and development centres while driving down costs to ensure that it can develop and retain the talent it already ha s It will further drive up performance management standards , and continue to professionalise financial management under the Five Star Finance Programme. 

The FCO will build on the talent within the organisation and develop greater diplomatic, language and geographic expertise, expertise in counter terrorism and counter proliferation and build our management and leadership ability.  It will aim to provide increased resources for additional language training and other core diplomatic skills, including commercial diplomacy. 

The FCO will continue to review overseas allowances in response to changing circumstances. The latest review, carried out in 2009, will yield annual savings of around £10m (10% of the allowances budget), £6.5m is from cash allowances, and £3.5 million from travel and education. 

Since 2009, the FCO has run three schemes for voluntary early departure in accordance with strict affordability criteria. A total of 280 staff have departed on these terms, resulting in salary savings of £11 million per year. The total resource costs of these exercises to the FCO was £31.3m (the immediate payments made to staff on departure, plus for staff leaving on early retirement the ongoing annual compensation payments up to their 60th birthday).  So the schemes have offered an average payback of under three years.

The recruitment freeze imposed by the new government brought immediate challenges around the numbers of staff that could be promoted from Band A to B.  The FCO is reviewing policies on promotion to compensate for the effects that the freeze will have, especially on lower grades.

Corporate Services Programme

In 2009/10 the Corporate Services programme delivered £5m of savings, impacting over 240 slots.  In 2010/11 the savings forecast is £13m and over 450 slots.  In 2011/12 the savings forecast is £27m and almost 500 slots.  On completion of the planned projects, the annual cost of delivering corporate services will be £30m less than the 2008/09 baseline and require 1,200 fewer staff.

As part of the CSR settlement, the FCO, like all other government departments, is committed to 33% savings in administration spend as part of the overall drive to increase efficiency.  The FCO intends to use this as an opportunity to free up resources for frontline operations through its Corporate Services Programme.  The aim of the Programme is to save time and money for the FCO by standardising and streamlining corporate policies, processes and tools.  The FCO is on track to deliver £45m by March 2012 and reduce corporate spend by £30m each year, including releasing 1000 (local) staff slots. There are five main streams of activity to this:

· Localising positions overseas.  Replacing 140 UK-based staff with local staff in corporate services and support positions overseas.

· Sharing services and consolidating processes on a cross-border basis.  Overseas, the FCO is consolidating transactional corporate services work either nationally or within a region to reduce duplication of effort, generate economies of scale at lead posts, and professionalise the delivery of corporate services functions through the recruitment of specialists.  Shared service networks are being developed in Central Europe, Eastern Mediterranean, Southern Africa, North East Asia, and South East Asia and Oceania.

· Outsourcing facilities management contracts.  Facilities management services were outsourced in the UK/North West Europe in 2009.  A contract to outsource facilities management services for 28 posts across Asia Pacific and India has also recently been signed.

· Streamlining transaction processing resources in the UK Corporate Service Centre (CSC).  The FCO has continued to move HR and Finance process work to the Corporate Services Centre (CSC) in Milton Keynes, whilst retaining policy formulation in London.  The CSC brings together human resources, finance and procurement processes, and is making staff savings through a number of efficiency projects. These will achieve a headcount saving of 46 slots (saving £2m per annum) by March 2012.  In addition, the FCO is continuing to consolidate transactional processing from overseas posts into the CSC which will allow more efficient use of resources and further economies of scale, avoid unnecessary duplication and make better use of specialist staff. The expected savings are up to £1.4m per annum.

· The FCO has been active in process simplification and standardisation and introducing self service. 50,000 staff days have been saved by removing outdated processes, simplifying procurement and finance, streamlining guidance and making better use of technology. All local staff data has been loaded onto our Oracle system, greatly improving management information. The FCO has implemented a new global expenses policy based on actual expenditure. It has introduced online payslips, email notifications, self service management of annual and sick leave, and improved its i-Expenses system.

FAC QUESTION: How does the FCO work across Whitehall? Are the FCO and its resources organised so as to facilitate cross-Government cooperation?

The FCO is active across a broad range of government policy and has day-to-day interaction with every major part of Whitehall. The sections following give a flavour of the breadth of that activity, and some sense of how it is organised and structured.

Defence and Security Issues

The FCO and MOD work closely from the NSC down to agree and implement the UK’s overall strategy and approach to protecting national security. The FCO and MOD work jointly to implement the priorities established in the SDSR and to support the effective engagement of international organisations in crisis management, including the UN, NATO, the European Union and the OSCE.  The latter includes both crisis management strategy as well as the delivery of appropriate capabilities to ensure effective international response, including equitable burden sharing.

The FCO participates actively in military planning exercises and training programmes to promote an integrated approach to the planning and conduct of crisis management.  This activity provides a platform for the FCO to help UK military forces to develop their understanding of political, diplomatic and development perspectives, as well as provide critical training for FCO staff in preparation for deployment in conflict zones.  Major exercises such as the Allied Rapid Reaction Corps exercise ARRCade Fusion 2009 and the UK’s Joint Force Headquarters exercise Joint Focus 2010 form a key part of the comprehensive effort across the FCO, DFID and the MOD to test the shared framework for conflict stabilisation.  Lessons drawn from such exercises feed back into both civilian policy planning for post-conflict reconstruction and the development of military doctrine.

The British Government has been at the forefront of the development and use of integrated civilian-military planning, and the FCO has played a significant role in this.  The Provincial Reconstruction Team in Helmand Province is a prime example of the work already being carried out.  Due to excellent FCO and MOD cooperation, the UK was the first country to set up a joint civilian-military headquarters in Afghanistan to lead on stabilisation, and this model has informed the development of similar structures by other countries.

There is close synergy between the FCO and MOD in pursuing defence diplomacy and the projection of defence soft power.  In a globalised and uncertain world, the UK is increasingly vulnerable to events and shocks elsewhere.  Both departments invest in bilateral defence relationships to enhance the UK’s understanding of complex issues, identify and plan for emerging threats, and exploit opportunities to influence in the national interest.  To achieve this in the defence sphere, FCO and MOD cooperate at posts overseas and in Whitehall.  It takes time to build credibility and develop worthwhile relationships and networks: a long-term view and consistent engagement with in-country presence are fundamental to achieving success.  Therefore Defence Attachés, whilst MOD assets, are integrated into FCO posts, are managed by Ambassadors, undergo FCO training and pursue joint objectives from boosting trade to increasing military cooperation.  The FCO participates fully in a number of key MOD engagement planning committees, and inputs into decisions concerning the extent and location of the Defence Attaché Network.

European conventional arms control is an area of long-standing interaction between the FCO and MOD.  The FCO is responsible for the strategic policy and diplomatic parts of this agenda, whilst the MOD provides military advice, and funds and executes the UK’s operational requirements. The two departments share planning and ensure strategic coherence and consistent UK messages.  This contributes to the UK’s ability to influence this agenda compared to other states that are less joined up.  For instance, the UK is often able to work faster and more effectively than other nations when dealing with political-military affairs in the OSCE.  This ability was crucial earlier this year in achieving the adoption of a UK decision to update the military transparency and regional security building measures contained within the Vienna Document 1999, which had previously been closed for over a decade.

The FCO coordinates closely with the MOD and DFID in pursuing the UK’s conventional weapons disarmament policy.  All three departments share HMG’s obligations under a range of treaties that seek to end the use of weapons that can have a disproportionate humanitarian impact. [1] [1]  MOD military advisors and DFID technical experts accompany FCO-led delegations to negotiations and meetings of States Parties.  The FCO led Cluster Munitions (Prohibitions) Bill 2010, which banned UK use of cluster munitions, saw a virtual FCO-MOD Bill team prepare for and advise on the legislation, with occasional policy support also provided by BIS, UKTI, Home Office and DFID.

The FCO engages actively in cross-Government work on maritime security, taking part in the new cross-Whitehall Maritime Security Oversight Group (MSOG) - designed to integrate more effectively the UK’s approach to maritime security - and will also contribute to the National Maritime Information Centre agreed by the SDSR.  The FCO, MOD, Department for Transport and the Home Office/UK Border Agency all play key roles in both, with the FCO leading on international maritime engagement policy, including international legal aspects.

The international counter-piracy effort is co-ordinated primarily by the Contact Group on Piracy off the Coast of Somalia, which includes more than 50 organisations and countries.  The FCO, on behalf of HMG, chairs the key working group on operational/military co-ordination and regional capability development, working closely with the MOD to identify key maritime risks and design potential international responses for discussion with partners.

The UK’s delegation to NATO is staffed jointly by the FCO and MOD.  This enables the FCO to incorporate military information and advice into UK defence diplomacy in NATO and to take a holistic view toward NATO security strategy.  The delegation works closely with FCO and MOD teams in London who provide day to day guidance and instructions on policy as well as strategic direction and objectives, as agreed by both sets of Ministers.  This shared policy perspective covers both strategic issues such as Europe’s security engagement with Russia and NATO enlargement (particularly in the Balkans), as well as operational issues, including Afghanistan and Kosovo.

The FCO works closely with the MOD and the Office of Cyber Security (OCS) on NATO cyber defence, consulting on briefing and policy.  Working with the MOD, who provide the defence requirements, and the OCS, who provide the cross-Whitehall structure, the FCO promotes the UK cyber agenda in international organisations including the UN, NATO and the EU, and feeds information and perspectives from international partners into Whitehall.

The FCO works closely with the MOD on policy regarding the UK’s nuclear deterrent, multilateral disarmament, ballistic missile defence and space issues.  In the run-up to publication of the SDSR, the FCO led on the review of the UK’s nuclear declaratory policy, whilst the MOD led on the Trident Value for Money review; they worked as a virtual team on the outcomes of both reviews.

Counter Proliferation Work

As the SDSR sets out, the Foreign Secretary is lead minister for counter proliferation work across Government. At official level, the FCO (Counter Proliferation Department) chairs the monthly Counter Proliferation Implementation Committee to plan, co-ordinate and monitor HMG’s counter proliferation activity. The Cabinet Office, MOD, Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC), Department of Business Innovation and Skills (BIS), Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC), HM Treasury (HMT) and Intelligence Agencies all take part.  The FCO is also the interface between the cross-Governmental Counter Proliferation community and the FCO posts overseas.

The FCO has been part of the governing board of the Global Threat Reduction Programme, a £36m pa fund dedicated to tackling nuclear security vulnerabilities.  The FCO’s Counter Proliferation Department chairs regular cross-Whitehall meetings to agree long-term policy and shorter term negotiating tactics on key international non-proliferation instruments including:

· the Nuclear Proliferation Treaty, working with the MOD and DECC;

· the Chemical Weapons Convention, working with the MOD, DECC, Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (DSTL); and

· the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention, working with the MOD, DECC, BIS, DSTL, Home Office, Department of Health, Department for Environment, Farming and Rural Affairs (DEFRA), Go-Science, Health Protection Agency, Metropolitan Police, Health & Safety Executive, National Counter Terrorism Security Office, Food Standards Agency, Veterinary Laboratories Agency, Food and Environmental Research Agency).

The FCO co-ordinates the UK position in the three EU Working Groups on counter proliferation. The FCO also takes part in the Restricted Enforcement Unit, a group chaired by BIS agrees actions to prevent proliferation.

During the Nuclear Proliferation Treaty Review Conference in May 2010, the UK’s negotiating teams in London and New York comprised officials from the FCO, the MOD, and DECC. On the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), MOD and FCO experts work with the CTBT Organisation in Vienna on the international monitoring system and preparing the Treaty for entry into force. Similarly, joint FCO and MOD teams work on UK policy regarding a future Material Cut Off Treaty, ballistic missile defence (including the recent announcement at the NATO Summit of a territorial missile defence system with the US), and space security issues.

BIS owns the UK’s export licensing process and requires advice from the FCO, MOD and DFID. To ensure that arms exports do not contribute to conflicts around the world or infringe human rights, the FCO makes assessments using all the latest available information. The information we receive from our posts overseas and desks in the UK is vital in making the right decision in approving or refusing an export.

Counter Terrorism Work

The FCO leads the cross-Whitehall effort on international delivery of the Government’s strategy for countering international terrorism CONTEST. The Overseas CONTEST Group, chaired by the FCO’s Director General for Defence and Intelligence, sets the strategic direction for overseas counter terrorism work, and guides priority setting and resource allocation across Government.

The Overseas CONTEST Group links closely to:

a) the Joint Intelligence Committee, in order that strategic priorities flow from the authoritative, cross-Government assessment of the threat;

b) the CONTEST board and sub-boards, to ensure coherence between domestic and overseas activity; and

c) the NSC, in order to situate our overseas counter terrorism efforts within the wider National Security Strategy.

Through its leadership of the Overseas CONTEST Group and through its overseas network, the FCO has a pivotal role in determining, coordinating and delivering the Government’s approach to terrorism (classified by the NSC as a tier one risk), through upstream intervention overseas. The Overseas CONTEST Group is considering how the UK can use its overseas counter terrorism resource to best effect in the light of the SDSR and the CSR.

Overseas delivery is led by the counter terrorism teams in the FCO network of posts, working with relevant government departments, including the Office for Security and Counter Terrorism (the Home Office unit who has the overall lead on terrorism in Whitehall), the MOD, the Intelligence Agencies, the Metropolitan Police, the Cabinet Office, DFID, the UK Border Agency (UKBA), and the Research, Information and Communications Unit. All departments draw on their own resources to achieve the objectives set out by the Overseas CONTEST Group, as well as on the cross-Whitehall counter terrorism programme fund which is managed by the FCO.

Additional FCO responsibilities for counter terrorism include outreach in the UK and overseas to explain British foreign policy, informing British citizens about terrorist threats overseas, crisis management overseas in the event of a terrorist attack or kidnap, and working with other departments and agencies to ensure the successful implementation of the detainee measures announced by the Prime Minister in July, and managing the difficult litigation and detainee cases with which HMG has been confronted.

All projects funded by the cross-Whitehall counter terrorism programme fund are now subject to a human rights assessment. The assessment occurs before the point of project approval, irrespective of whether the project could yield commercial opportunity for UK industry.

The Prosperity Agenda and Trade Policy

A key function of British foreign policy is to support the UK economic recovery. And this in turn depends upon global stability and growth. The FCO is injecting a new commercialism into its work and into the definition of the UK’s international objectives, ensuring that the UK can develop the strong political relationships which will help British business to thrive overseas.

The FCO has moved to make economic objectives a central aspect of UK international bilateral engagement, working in a targeted and systematic fashion to secure Britain’s economic recovery, promote open markets and improved financial regulation and to open the way to greater access for British companies in new markets worldwide. The FCO is championing Britain as a partner of choice for any country seeking to invest and do business in Europe; and using an energetic diplomacy to help secure a strong, sustainable and open global economy.

The FCO and the Department for Business Innovation and Skills (BIS) work closely to deliver the UK national interests on prosperity and growth issues, including trade and investment policy, corporate governance and anti-corruption issues.

The joint FCO/BIS Trade Policy Unit represents one of the closest connections between the two departments. The FCO works with the Trade Policy Unit, the UK Representation in Brussels, and the UK Mission to the World Trade Organisation (WTO) at Geneva to influence European trade policy to adopt a strategic posture to key trading relationships and to press for an early and ambitious outcome to the Doha Development Agenda. The UK Representation in Brussels works to provide coherent HMG contact with the European Commission and the European Parliament on trade issues, and to foster close links with trade officials in other EU Member States on resisting protectionism and promoting open markets.

The UK Mission in Geneva (UKMIS Geneva) represents the UK at the WTO and also at the other international organisations in Geneva that deal with trade and development related issues [2] .The mission is staffed by FCO and BIS personnel, though the positions are primarily funded by the FCO with some support from the D F ID. The EU’s common commercial policy is an exclusive Commission competence. UKMIS Geneva monitors activity and report widely across HMG on WTO negotiations, disputes, accessions and the operation of existing agreements. UKMIS Geneva liaises with other resident Missions and the WTO Secretariat in order to carry out lobbying and inform policy making in London. It also looks to ensure that the international organisations it deals with are accountable, transparent and effective, and provide value for money.

The FCO and BIS also work to influence trade policy outside of Europe. The FCO, and specifically the UK’s network of Trade Policy Attachés, plays an important role in lobbying on matters of concern to HMG and gathering information and analysis to aid the development of UK trade policy. Advice from the FCO on key trade and investment relationships feeds into the work of the NSC Emerging Powers Sub-Committee.

The FCO are working closely with BIS as part of a core cross-HMG team in the development of the HMG Trade White Paper due for publication in January. The FCO are also working with BIS and HM Treasury (HMT) colleagues on the HMG Growth Review. This work will set out a whole of Government approach to delivering on trade and investment priorities for the UK and contributing to the sustainable growth of the UK economy.

Trade Promotion

The FCO and BIS are the parent departments of UK Trade and Investment (UKTI), the Government organisation that helps UK-based companies succeed in the global economy and assists overseas companies in bringing high quality investment to the UK. The FCO works closely both at home and overseas with UKTI.

The Minister for Trade and Investment is responsible for UKTI's operations. UKTI is headed up by a Chief Executive, Sir Andrew Kahn, who sits on the Executive Boards of both the FCO and BIS.

UKTI staff are present in 96 FCO posts across the world. Of these, 17 are in high growth markets, which are in many cases the same markets identified by the Government as priorities for elevating relations. The FCO and UKTI are working together to ensure consistency in broader UK Government activity in these markets.

Commercial successes in the last six months include:

· The Prime Minister led the largest ever British delegation to China on his way to the G20 Summit in Seoul in November. Over 40 specific agreements were signed dealing with trade, low carbon growth, and cultural and education initiatives. Commercial deals were announced including £750 million for Rolls Royce to supply and service jet engines for China Eastern Airlines; the construction of 50 new English language schools by Pearson; and the launch of a £317 million UK-China investment fund. The visit highlighted recent and ongoing inward investment from China worth in excess of £300 million, creating or safeguarding over 1200 jobs across the UK.

· The Prime Minister visited Turkey in July to agree a Strategic Partnership on trade and investment, energy, defence and security. He also addressed business leaders to discuss trade opportunities.

· The Prime Minister took the largest British trade delegation ever to India in July. He witnessed the signing of a Hawk aircraft contract worth £500 million. During this visit he established a CEO Forum to make recommendations to both Governments on how to increase levels of trade, and committed to an ambitious programme of co-operation on education, science and research.

FCO work with HM Treasury on global economic issues

FCO and HMT work very closely on global economic issues. Whilst HMT leads on international macroeconomic issues such as monetary policy, exchange rate and fiscal policy coordination, the FCO provides much of the reporting on these issues including on the political context and lobbies other governments as appropriate (e.g. in preparation for G20 summits).

The FCO and HMT coordinate on UK policy towards country-specific international issues such as International Monetary Fund (IMF) programmes. As an IMF shareholder, HMG contributes to Board decisions on individual programmes. HMT leads on the UK’s contribution to the decisions, but with input from relevant FCO posts. The UK’s shareholder interest in the IMF is handled on a daily basis by the UK Delegation (UKDEL) to the IMF and World Bank in Washington.

HMT has staff seconded to key Embassies including Washington, Beijing, Berlin, Paris and Tokyo. They work as an integrated part of the Embassy teams, reporting to Ambassadors. More broadly the FCO works to promote the UK’s economic reputation and explain UK economic policy overseas, based on HMT briefings.

FCO work with the Cabinet Office on the G8/G20 agenda

The FCO, HMT and the Cabinet Office work together to deliver the UK’s objectives within the G8 and G20, in consultation with a wide range of other government departments such as DFID, the Department for Energy and Climate Change (DECC), the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) and BIS. The FCO Director General for Global and Economic Issues acts as the UK's G8 Foreign Affairs Sous-Sherpa, providing the UK lead in negotiations on the work streams, initiatives and commitments that will be considered by G8 Leaders at the Summit. This negotiation process feeds into G8 Sherpa meetings, in which the Cabinet Office support the UK’s G8 and G20 Sherpa, the Head of the European and Global Issues Secretariat and International Economic and EU Advisor in the Prime Minister’s Office.

On international peace and security issues in the G8, the FCO Political Director leads UK engagement with counterparts at G8 Political Directors' meetings. The FCO and the Cabinet Office collaborate closely to provide policy advice to Ministers covering the role and future of the G8, which topics should feature on its agenda, and how the G8 relates to wider global governance.

The FCO works closely with HMT and the Cabinet Office, jointly contributing to HMG's objectives and priorities for the G20 and specifically providing policy advice on handling of G20 issues within the UK's wider bilateral relations and foreign policy objectives. The Cabinet Office provides the cross-Whitehall coordination on G20 and leads on supporting the UK's G8 and G20 Sherpa in the preparations for the G20 Leaders Summit.

The FCO’s role in the management and implementation of EU business for the UK Government

This Government is committed to advancing Britain’s interest in Europe and the FCO plays a central role in the formulation and implementation of HMG’s EU business. The key Cabinet Committees are the European Affairs Committee, chaired by the Foreign Secretary himself and the European Affairs Sub-Committee, chaired by the Minister for Europe. The FCO’s central role in these Committees places it at the heart of formulation of Government policy on the EU. The FCO engages in daily contact across Whitehall, at both ministerial and official level, on the full range of EU policy questions.

The Minister for Europe is responsible for the relationship between Government and Parliament on EU issues through the Parliamentary Scrutiny process. The FCO works with the Cabinet Office to ensure that the Government’s commitments to the Scrutiny Committees are met across Whitehall, improving training and guidance for officials. The FCO leads on the Scrutiny Reserve Resolution and the Terms of Reference for the European Scrutiny Committee in the House of Commons and the EU Select Committee in the House of Lords, to ensure parliamentary engagement in, and Government accountability on, EU policy.

The purpose of the European Affairs Committee is to agree collectively the UK position towards EU policy issues and negotiations on issues that affect more than one department or have implications for the Government’s strategic approach to the EU. The Committee conducts its work through correspondence to seek Members’ views and the Chair’s clearance on cross-cutting policy questions. The Committee meets regularly to discuss and agree matters of wider strategic importance.

The European Affairs Sub-Committee supplements and assists the work of the main Committee, for example, taking forward more detailed pieces of work, undertaking preparatory work on issues for future discussion at the main Committee, and considering in greater depth the UK’s strategic relationships within the EU.

Within the UK Government, the FCO leads on the following EU questions:

· The relationship with the EU’s Institutions – the European Council and the Council of Ministers, the European Commission, the European Parliament and the Court of Justice of the European Union. The competences and powers of these institutions are set out in the EU Treaties, and therefore the FCO also leads on the policy towards those treaties and negotiation of any changes to them.

· The strategic overview of EU enlargement policy and accession negotiations. The FCO hosts quarterly meetings for senior officials across Whitehall on EU enlargement. At these meetings the FCO provides updates on the progress of accession negotiations. All elements of the Government’s EU enlargement policy are discussed and departments have the opportunity to feed in comments or raise any concerns. The FCO consults government departments closely on the detail of accession negotiations. The lead Whitehall department on any given "chapter" of the negotiations must consent for the UK to agree to it being closed. By consulting with policy experts in this way, the Government as a whole is able to maintain effective conditionality on accession negotiations.

· The European Neighbourhood Policy is the EU’s policy framework for its relations with the countries neighbouring the EU to the east and the south. The Neighbourhood Policy falls outside the scope of enlargement and pre-accession policy. The FCO consults other Whitehall departments closely on Neighbourhood Policy issues as they arise – for example in preparing the UK’s response to the European Commission’s annual reports.

· EU external policy, working in particular with the Cabinet Office. This includes both the EU Common Foreign and Security Policy (such as policy on major international issues such as Iran, Burma or Sudan) and Common Security and Defence Policy. It also leads on the question of the EU’s relations with other global actors, and lobbies the EU institutions on how best to use Europe’s various tools of external action (such as the External Action Service, EU budget spend, and Summits with third countries). Additionally, the FCO provides centralised advice and guidance for Whitehall departments on external representation, sharing best-practice and legal recommendations. The FCO also drives UK policy on the development of the European External Action Service, ensuring the Service complements UK foreign and development policy objectives.

The UK's Permanent Representation to the EU is the Government's interface in Brussels with the EU Institutions. Its job is to present the UK's interests to these Institutions, and to advocate these interests, both bilaterally, and in multilateral discussions in the Council of Ministers, and supporting Committees of Ambassadors and working groups. The Permanent Representation follows the full range of issues in which the EU enjoys competence. It is headed by three officials of Ambassadorial rank. The Permanent Representative supervises the work of Political, Communication and Visits, Economic and Finance, Justice and Home Affairs and Legal Sections. The Deputy Permanent Representative supervises the work of Competitiveness and Markets, Regions and Agriculture, and Social and Environment Sections. The Ambassador to the Political and Security Committee supervises the work of the two External Relations Sections (the Common Foreign and Security Policy and the near abroad; trade, wider world and development), and the Military Section. The staff of the UK Permanent Representation are drawn from 16 government departments, with the FCO providing the overall platform, and acting as parent department to the mission. Individual sections receive instructions from a variety of lead Ministries, according to the matter at hand.

The FCO’s network of posts in Europe also has an important role in supporting the development and promotion of the Government’s EU business. This can take a number of forms. For example, alerting other Member States to the Government’s position on specific issues and seeking to influence a host Government’s position, to helping inform HMG’s policy formulation processes by providing analysis on developments in other Member States and their likely positions and reactions to EU-related proposals and developments.

International Development

As set out in the FCO Business Plan, we will work with other government departments to agree a joint approach to enhance British "soft power" that uses all our national instruments, including the UK’s world-class programme of aid. In his appearance in front of the Liaison Committee in November 2010, the Prime Minister said that "we should be clear that the development budget gives Britain clout and influence in the world. Six months into the job, I really feel that. When you sit round the table at the G8 or G20 discussing Haiti, Pakistan or Yemen, often the modern equivalent of a battleship is the C17 loaded with aid and the brilliant Oxfam team that is going to go in and help deliver water or whatever. They are real tools of foreign policy and influence and heft in the world. We should be quite frank about that, and not be embarrassed about it".

DFID is responsible for the UK’s efforts on global poverty reduction, and for setting development policy. Along with the FCO, it is represented on the NSC, the NSC Emerging Powers Sub-Committee, the Threats, Hazards, Resilience and Contingencies NSC Sub-Committee and the European Affairs Committee, to ensure that development policy is appropriately factored in to all cross-Government decision-making.

FCO and DFID work closely together at all levels and FCO and DFID staff are co-located in 29 posts overseas. The Foreign Secretary has travelled to Afghanistan with the International Development Secretary (and the Defence Secretary), and FCO and DFID Ministers have travelled together to the Democratic Republic of Congo. The two Departments’ joint efforts led the way in supporting the victims of the floods in Pakistan.

The FCO works closely with DFID ahead of major international meetings, such as G8, G20 or UN summits, to ensure proactive engagement on development issues with our major partners. For example, ahead of the Millennium Development Goals Summit at the United Nations in September, FCO and DFID staff in British Embassies and High Commissions worked together to highlight the importance of achieving the Goals by 2015 and UK efforts on combating malaria and infant and maternal health.

The Government has committed to spending 0.7% of the UK’s gross national income in overseas development assistance (ODA) from 2013. The recent Spending Review provided for an increase in the FCO's own spending on ODA to help meet this commitment. HMG want to ensure that wherever and however we spend our aid, it has the greatest impact on global poverty and that it assists the economic growth and independent development that are the bedrock for more stable and democratic societies. The FCO and DFID are working closely together to ensure that they use the same methodology consistent with the OECD's guidelines to measure the UK’s ODA.

Education and Health

The FCO provides Grant in Aid funding for the British Council. The FCO’s network works closely with the British Council overseas. In some cases the British Council is located in Embassies. The FCO also manages the Chevening scholarship programme and in 2010-11 the FCO will spend £12m to fund 600 overseas scholars to study in the UK at approximately 70 different educational institutions.

Education is a key element in the FCO’s objective of building prosperity, and many opportunities for the UK educational institutions to building long-term links with future key opinion formers in many countries. In particular, the Foreign Secretary has highlighted education as a priority in his initiative to elevate the UK’s relations with emerging powers. Realising our potential requires a whole-of-Government approach on education overseas. The FCO is working with the Joint International Unit (Department for Work and Pensions (DWP)/Department for Education (DfE), The British Council, UKBA and UKTI to ensure this. From December 2010, FCO Minister of State, Jeremy Browne will represent the FCO on the International Education Research Forum.

UK overseas posts also have a remit to spot opportunities to encourage partnerships between UK and foreign universities, the opening of British schools and colleges overseas, and promotion of UK expertise in curriculum development.

The UK has a major stake in ensuring that as global health outcomes improve, it can work in effective partnership with the broad array of global health actors to ensure limited resources are focussed on key priorities such as the threat of spread of disease. Accordingly, the FCO works closely with the Department for Health and DFID on global health issues and threats.

FCO bilateral posts facilitate strong links and information exchange between the UK’s health sector and major international partners, and seek to build political support behind key international initiatives such as the UN Secretary General’s Global Strategy for Women’s and Children’s Health, launched this year. The UK’s permanent missions in New York and Geneva work on global health priorities with the United Nations, World Health Organisation, UNAIDS, the Global Fund and the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation.


The FCO and BIS co-fund and work in partnership to develop the strategy and direction of the Science and Innovation Network (SIN) of some 90 science attaché officers at 40 posts in 25 countries. The SIN works to build international science and innovation partnerships and collaborations for the benefit of UK policy, research and business interests and investments.

The FCO’s Chief Scientific Adviser, Prof. David Clary FRS, is the senior FCO focal point for the SIN, representing the FCO on the BIS management board for the network. Prof. Clary also represents the FCO on the cross-Whitehall Chief Scientific Advisers' Committee (CSAC) and key thematic sub-committees (e.g. on climate change, food security and nuclear energy issues). These groups are all chaired by and report to the Government Chief Scientific Adviser, Prof. John Beddington.

Outside of the CSAC framework, Prof. Clary is on senior Whitehall advisory boards for space, marine, and nuclear science policy issues as well as relevant horizon scanning projects such as on environmental migration and international climate change.

Climate and Energy

An effective response to climate change underpins both UK security and prosperity. The National Security Council held its first meeting on the security implications of climate change in November. It recognised that food, water and energy security cannot be achieved without climate security.

DECC lead in the negotiations on an international agreement. The FCO plays a supporting role by working to create the necessary international political conditions to make such an agreement possible. In so doing, we hope to build the policy confidence required to drive a successful transition to a low carbon economy. The Foreign Secretary has appointed a Special Representative on Climate Change as his personal representative in contacts with key interlocutors overseas. The global network of British climate attachés is widely recognised as a valuable source of ideas on the politics and economics of climate change.

This strong commitment by the FCO has been acknowledged by others to have created a distinctive and innovative approach to climate diplomacy. The FCO has become engaged in building coalitions of interest to support ambitious outcomes among business, science, NGOs, faith groups and the media within key nations. This activity not only provides support for UK climate negotiators, but also gives us influence over others’ economic and political choices. This was acknowledged, for example, by the Chinese G overnment who have attributed the concept of low carbon economy they are now pursuing with vigour to the UK. The British diplomacy that helped establish the EU2020 commitments on climate has also been recognised by our EU Partners. The FCO effort to support the emergence of a strong and coherent voice from climate vulnerable countries in the United Nations – has been acknowledged by countries in Africa, Latin America to South East Asia. The FCO, working with the MOD, has also been seen to pioneer the effort to mobilise security elites on climate change.

The FCO leads on physical security and strategic relationships with major energy producers and consumers in support of DECC’s lead on international energy policy. The International Energy Strategy developed jointly by the FCO and DECC, led to new clarity in our international energy policy priorities, as captured in the SDSR. Areas of energy security work on which the FCO will be playing an active part include:

· Reprioritising bilateral diplomatic relationships to increase the focus on key supplier states.

· Working  with states and groupings of countries that use the most energy – for example, US, China, India, Russia and the EU – in support of actions that reduce their oil and gas demand, including work both on energy efficiency and on low carbon growth.

· Prioritising the support of commercial opportunities for British businesses with key energy consumers and producers.

· Working with the EU, the International Energy Agency and other international institutions to take forward UK priorities, such as improving energy infrastructure, promoting effective energy market mechanisms, encouraging energy efficiency and the deployment of low carbon technologies.

· Work overseas to mitigate disruption to the transit of energy supplies.

Managing Migration

The FCO works closely with UKBA. On policy, both organisations are committed to controlling migration to secure the UK’s borders and to promote the country’s economic prosperity. In helping the UK to maximise the benefits of legal migration, the FCO helps UKBA to maintain a visa regime which strikes the right balance between protecting the UK border and deterring illegal entry, whilst encouraging the brightest and best economic migrants with the skills the economy needs to come to the UK.

The FCO has worked alongside UKBA in recent months on the first phase of a consultation to address the Government’s commitment to "impose an annual limit on the number of non-EU economic migrants coming to the UK to live and work".

The FCO and UKBA are working together to tackle the problem of illegal immigration. The FCO are helping facilitate the return of foreign national prisoners and failed asylum seekers, including through the negotiation of return agreements and the use of a cross-departmental Returns and Reintegration Fund. In recent years, such collaboration has yielded a significant increase in the volume of foreign national prisoners being returned to their country of origin.

The aim of securing optimal alignment between visa and foreign policies is mirrored by a commitment to ensuring a productive working relationship between the FCO and UKBA. Both share a commitment to fill up to 40% of the posts in UKBA s International Group with FCO staff . UKBA operations occupy a significant proportion of the FCO estate footprint overseas. The FCO s Director for Migration attends UKBA Board meetings, and contributes to policy discussions. The FCO s Migration Directorate, which is funded by the UKBA, comprises staff from across government, including from UKBA. The mix of professional immigration expertise coupled with the language skills and diplomatic experience of FCO staff has enabled the Directorate to make a significant contribution to the Agency s work on tackling illegal immigration.

The FCO and the Intelligence Agencies

The FCO is, of course, a major customer for the work of the Intelligence and Security Agencies, which makes an important contribution to all FCO objectives. The FCO works very closely with Agency colleagues to determine requirements and priorities and advise the Foreign Secretary in his role as Secretary of State responsible for SIS and GCHQ.

FAC QUESTION: What should be the role of the FCO’s network of overseas posts?

The SDSR sets out some specific parameters for the FCO overseas network including:

· that the Diplomatic Service should support the UK’s key multilateral and bilateral relationships and the obligations arising from its status as a permanent member of the UN Security Council, and a leading member of NATO, the EU and other international organisations;

· that the UK’s global overseas network should be FCO-led and should focus on safeguarding the UK’s national security, building UK prosperity, and support UK nationals around the world;

· that the UK needs co-ordinated cross-Government effort overseas that brings together diplomatic, development, military and other national security tools;

· that HMG as a whole should seek to improve co-ordination of all UK work overseas under the leadership of the Ambassador or High Commissioner representing the UK Government as a whole.

This Government is clear that successful delivery of foreign policy in a networked world requires diplomacy which is agile, innovative and global in reach. The FCO network of overseas posts is essential to delivering this. Posts are increasingly using collaborative working to deliver HMG’s objectives in an effective and efficient way and to add value to decision making within Government. For example: co-ordinated action by G20 posts in preparation for the G20 summit in Seoul in November and action between posts in NATO countries and the British Embassy in Kabul to help shape the NATO/Afghanistan Partnership Agreement in advance of the NATO Lisbon summit in November.

One longstanding global network which the FCO will engage with in a much more coherent way is the Commonwealth, which contains six of the world’s fastest growing economies and is underpinned by an agreed framework of common values. The FCO’s network of posts in Commonwealth partners will work to strengthen the Commonwealth as a focus for promoting democratic values, human rights, climate resilient development, conflict prevention and trade.

FCO posts play a key role in informing the cross-Whitehall policy making process. Posts send some formal reports – eGrams – with the authority of the Head of Mission that provide timely and authoritative information on developments in their host countries, analysis and advice on the formulation of policy. eGrams are shared across Whitehall. The FCO is undertaking a review of the eGram system to ensure that the system responds to the needs of Ministers and policy makers across all of Government.

Relations between states are not conducted solely by Ministers. They are partly driven by connections between individuals, business, pressure groups and civil society organisations. The UK thus not only has more governments to influence, but needs also to take account of the wide range of networks it needs to win over to its arguments.

Given the significant number of staff from other government departments posted in UK Diplomatic Missions abroad, the FCO is committed to delivering an efficient and effective platform for co-location at its posts overseas. The major activities of other government departments will be integrated into the Country Business Plans which each Sovereign Post will draw up for the remainder of the Spending Review period, and which will be reviewed annually. These Plans will give greater focus to the delivery of wider HMG objectives overseas and will support greater co-location and collaborative working. The Plans will be drawn up at post, involving all government departments with an interest in the country and will be cleared with all relevant Departments in London.

Effective influencing of foreign governments, institutions and international organisations to deliver the objectives of UK policy will continue to require personal contact. The FCO is determined to deliver a global and flexible diplomatic network with an excellent range of contacts and access to key decision makers. We are reviewing our work-force plan to ensure that we have the right human resource policies and systems in place to deliver this, including more training on commercial diplomacy to better deliver HMG’s prosperity agenda.

As a comparison with other foreign services, the following table shows total numbers of all diplomatic missions (including consulates) and sovereign posts (Embassies and High Commissions only).


Total Diplomatic Missions

Sovereign Posts




United Kingdom



United States





















FAC QUESTION: What is the FCO’s role in explaining UK foreign policy to the British public?

UK foreign policy is entrenched in the national interest and serves the British people. The Foreign Secretary has set out our foreign policy in a series of four high-profile speeches since May. He and his Ministerial team take an active role in explaining the FCO’s priorities to all those who have an interest. In the past month, for example, the Foreign Secretary gave a speech to the UN about foreign policy, FCO Minister of State David Lidington has briefed the press about the EU Bill, and FCO Minister Henry Bellingham has spoken to the press about the Commonwealth.

The FCO is increasingly proactive in working to explain UK foreign policy through the UK and international media, including through briefings and placing articles, letters and staff profile pieces in a variety of publications.  The full range of broadcast and print UK and international media regularly carry statements from FCO Ministers and details from FCO public background briefings. The FCO also seeks to target the non news media, and examples of such material placed in the last year include stories on the FCO Forced Marriage Unit and on the Consul General in Basra in publications such as Grazia and Marie Claire.

But we do not only rely on speeches, press briefings and traditional media. The FCO leads the world in using digital diplomacy to explain its priorities to both the British public and the wider international audience. It uses a range of digital publishing channels including its website and social media. This includes blogs written by Ambassadors and experts to explain complex policy, and video and audio to ensure the UK’s foreign policy priorities are clearly explained to as wide an audience as possible in the most engaging way. The FCO digital tools provide the public with the opportunity to question and comment on foreign policy online. The public has been able to put questions to the Foreign Secretary and other Ministers on issues such as Afghanistan and Pakistan, Europe, the Middle East and Human Rights. The FCO website is available not just in English, but also in Arabic and Urdu.

We also recognise that good communication is two-way. The Foreign Secretary and his Ministers are keen to continue to support an ongoing programme of work to make sure that FCO has a broad and meaningful dialogue on foreign policy, including Parliamentarians, NGOs , d iaspora communities, faith groups, academics and other influential groups. In the next few months, the Foreign Secretary and his team will chair small meetings with key thinkers about the prosperity agenda, the EU, human rights and conflict and security before key global events and conferences. They will then chair follow-up meetings to talk about how the FCO has moved towards meeting its priorities.

In this effort, the Foreign Secretary has made plain the importance that he attaches to the BBC World Service. In his speech of 1 July he praised the "essential importance of the work of the British Council and the BBC World Service, which give Britain an unrivalled platform for the projection of the appeal of our culture and the sharing of our values".

The FCO respects the rights of the individual to access information and is fully compliant with its legal obligations under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 and Data Protection Act 1998, as well as the Go vernment’s Transparency Agenda. However, the FCO does have certain responsibility for national security issues, which in some cases prevents some information being made avai lable to the public. Its information strategy and commitment to transparency are outlined in the FCO Business Plan.

FAC QUESTION: What should be the FCO s role in relation to non-governmental organisations (NGOs)?

The FCO seek s a partnership role with NGOs . W hilst recognising their independence , the FCO believes that their in-depth knowledge and contribution on major foreign policy issues is often central to the work of the FCO, and they can often add real v alu e on both formulation and implement at i on of foreign policy.

One recent example of this partnership working in practice is the Human Rights Advisory Group established by the Foreign Secretary in October.

Another example is the FCO s partnership with NGOs on the Arms Trade Treaty.   The FCO has worked with the NGO Control Arms coalition (this includes Oxfam, Amnesty International and Saferworld) on trying to secure such an international treaty.  

Shortly after taking up the role, Jeremy Browne , the FCO Minister of State responsible for Human Rights visited the offices of Amnesty International UK to meet with a group of NGOs to inform his initial thinking.   Ministers have held round-table events with NGOs to listen to their concerns ahead of visits or events, including on China, Burma and Sudan.   NGO representatives have also been included at times in internal FCO meetings to discuss both policy and technical issues related to an international arms trade treaty.

The FCO has also worked with wider civil society on key issues.   On 23 November, the FCO hosted prize-winners of a competition organised by the British Red Cross and law firm Allen and Overy LLP.   The competition invited school children to produce projects on the issue of justice and fairness .

FAC QUESTION: Given the new Government’s emphasis on using the FCO to promote UK trade and economic recovery, how can the Department best avoid potential conflicts between this task, support for human rights, and the pursuit of other Government objectives?

Promoting UK trade and the economic recovery does not imply any reduction in the FCO’s strong commitment to human rights. As the Foreign Secretary set out in his speech in September 2010 on "Britain’s values in a networked world", human rights are indivisible from the UK’s foreign policy objectives and will be woven deeply into the decision processes of our foreign policy at every stage.

The Government and the FCO have taken a number of steps to put this policy on standing up for British values in the world into practice:

· Finalising and publishing for the first consolidated guidance to intelligence and service personnel on the interviewing of detainees which makes public the longstanding policy that British personnel are never authorised to proceed with action where they know or believe that torture will occur, and to report any abuses which they uncover. This establishes the clear line of ministerial authority over such matters.

· Following the publication of consolidated guidance, the FCO itself is reissuing guidance to its own staff on reporting any alleged incidents of torture or cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment that they encounter in their work. This guidance will also be published.

· The Foreign Secretary’s Human Rights Advisory Group will help him ensure he has the best possible information about human rights challenges, and to benefit from outside advice on the conduct of UK foreign policy where there is a human rights angle.  This Group’s members include eminent experts and individuals from a range of fields and organisations, including NGOs. It will meet regularly and will have access to FCO Ministers.

· FCO Minister Jeremy Browne has been consulting British MPs and NGOs about where the UK can and should have most impact in this area.

· British diplomats and Ministers continue to be active in raising human rights cases. Examples over the last months include pressing for free and fair elections in Burma, access for humanitarian aid to Gaza, and women’s rights, religious freedom and the death penalty in Iran, notably the case of Sakineh Ashtiani.

· Human rights considerations are included in all relevant policy work including HMG country strategies, and covered fully in policy advice to Ministers.

British business tell the FCO that they want to work in business environments overseas which operate according to the rule of law and where there is a respect for human rights. The FCO’s work to encourage all countries to sign, ratify and implement human rights treaties, to comply with international standards on the rule of law, and to participate in various voluntary standards frameworks is also relevant to our prosperity agenda as it helps to improve the environment for investment, including British investment.

The FCO looks to British business to show that it is among the best governed in the world, with strict adherence to high ethical standards. Where they fall short of such standards, there are internationally recognised mechanisms to address these, such as the OECD Guidelines on Multi-National Enterprises, the OECD Anti-Bribery Convention, the UN Convention against Corruption, and the UN Global Compact, an initiative for businesses that are committed to aligning their operations and strategies with universally accepted priorities in the areas of human rights, labour, the environment and anti-corruption.

Against this background, bilateral visits, including those with a trade focus will give UK Ministers opportunities to raise human rights issues. Indeed, the UK can seek to use strong economic and trading relationships to influence its partners to make progress on human rights where there are grounds for concern.

For example, on their recent visit to China, the Prime Minister and other Ministers established constructive relationships with China's current and future leaders, building the foundation for UK/China relations for the next five years. The visit delivered over 40 agreements across the whole range of the bilateral relationship, from trade to low carbon growth, to cultural and education initiatives. The Chinese publicly endorsed Partners for Growth, a proposal to deliver an enhanced bilateral relationship aimed at maintaining the benefits of globalisation for both our countries.

Hand in hand with these agreements, the Prime Minister had full discussions with Chinese leaders reflecting the multi-faceted dialogues HMG has with the Chinese Government. These discussions included human rights as well as economic and trade issues, and no subjects were off-limits. Britain will continue to be open with China on subjects where we take a different view. For example in his speech at Peking University, the Prime Minister noted that the best guarantor of prosperity was for economic and political progress to advance in step with each other. He discussed freedom of expression and the importance of people being able to hear different views directly through the media. The Prime Minister also talked about the value to effective government of the opposition exercising its constitutional duty to hold the government publicly to account. During this visit, dates were agreed (13-15 January 2011) for the next round of the UK’s Human Rights Dialogue with the Chinese.

The FCO is also working actively within the EU to make it a more effective advocate for human rights around the world. This includes leveraging the combined power of all EU members as the largest single market in the world, and its common commitment to the highest standards of human rights, to seek improvements on human rights issues and access to justice globally. The FCO will continue to ensure that the EU uses its existing tools and mechanisms as effectively as possible.

The FCO supports the work of the UN Special Representative on Business and Human Rights, Prof. John Ruggie, to elaborate an international framework covering the obligations of States under international human rights treaties to protect against human rights abuses by third parties, the responsibilities of businesses to respect human rights and the need for greater access for victims to effective remedy.

1 December 2010



Historical Background

It is only since 1968, when the present "Foreign and Commonwealth Office" was formed, that one integrated government department has been charged with conducting British foreign policy as a whole and handling Britain’s diplomatic relations with all independent Commonwealth and foreign countries, including the administration of the UK’s remaining Dependent Territories. Since 1964, aid policy has been handled sometimes as a separate Department as now, and sometimes as an administration under the authority of the Foreign Secretary.

Prior to this, Britain’s overseas representation involved a number of different government departments and separate diplomatic, consular and commercial services. Up to 1968, the history is one of merger and amalgamation, coupled with attempts to balance changing international challenges to the United Kingdom against ever declining resources. More recently, the focus has been on defining the FCO’s role within HM Government.

During the nineteenth century, the senior partner in the execution of foreign affairs was the Diplomatic Service, which served as the primary means of contact with foreign governments and rulers. The Foreign Office functioned largely as administrative support to the Foreign Secretary. The role changed to reflect constant improvement in communications (the first Foreign Office telegram was sent in 1852) making it easier for negotiations to be conducted in London.

Reforms of 1905-06 and further reforms in 1919 and 1943 moved towards the creation of a unified and modern foreign service. Reviews by the Plowden Committee (1964), the Duncan Committee (1969) and the Central Policy Review Staff (1977) set out to modernise the foreign service in view of Britain's rapidly changing position in the world. A White Paper in 2003 UK International Priorities – A Strategy for the FCO attempted for the first time to identify the UK’s international priorities over the next ten years and the FCO’s role in achieving them.

Over the twentieth century, reform and change in the FCO came about against the background of a decline in British power and the changing nature of international relations. The First World War saw a desire for "new" diplomacy whose practitioners had to become increasingly aware of a full range of economic, industrial, technical, social and financial factors, as well as the power of ideology and propaganda, in shaping policy.

After 1945, the process of decolonisation saw a rapid increase in the number of independent nations, a growing trend towards complex bilateral and multilateral diplomacy, a proliferation of international organisations and non-government actors and an exponential growth in world trade, and migration.

The end of the Cold War and the collapse of communism further expanded the number of independent states, gave fresh impetus to the forces of globalisation and interdependency between nations, and has brought new challenges in the form of international terrorism, nuclear non-proliferation and climate change. The last decade has seen the FCO focus its efforts increasingly towards handling these new challenges and opportunities.



BIS Department for Business Innovation and Skills

CSR Comprehensive Spending Review

CTBT Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty

CSAC Chief Scientific Advisers’ Committee

DECC Department for Energy and Climate Change

DEFRA Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

DfE Department for Education

DFID Department for International Development

DSTL Defence Science and Technology Laboratory

DWP Department for Work and Pensions

FCO Foreign and Commonwealth Office

HMRC HM Revenue and Customs

HMT HM Treasury

IMF International Monetary Fund

MOD Ministry of Defence

MSOG Whitehall Maritime Security Oversight Group

NGO Non Governmental Organisation

NSC National Security Council

NSS National Security Strategy

OCS Office of Cyber Security

ODA Overseas Development Assistance

OECD Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development

OSCE Organization for Security Co-operation in Europe

SDSR Strategic Defence and Security Review

SIN Science and Innovation Network

UKBA UK Border Agency

UKMis UK Mission

WTO World Trade Organization

[1] [1] The main disarmament treaties are: the Mine Ban Treaty; the Convention on Certain Convention Weapons; and the Convention on Cluster Munitions.

[2] These include UNCTAD, WIPO, ILO, ITC, EIF, UNECE, the Human Rights Council .