The Role of the FCO in UK Government



Many thanks for your email of 1 February seeking clarification of a number of points supplementary to Peter Ricketts' written evidence on the role of the FCO in UK Government. I enclose below our responses

1. With regard to Sir Peter's written answer A4, which of the current five Directorates in the National Security Secretariat is to be disbanded as a result of the recent, post-SDSR review, and where will its responsibilities then be sited?

The Strategy and Counter-terrorism Directorate in the National Security Secretariat is to be merged following the review. Its counter-terrorism responsibilities will be integrated into the Security and Intelligence Directorate. The central direction and coordination of strategy will also still be carried out by the Cabinet Office, including through the creation of a more formal strategic thinking network overseen by the National Security Adviser. This was a commitment made in the Strategic Defence and Security Review.

2. With regard to Sir Peter 's written answer A9, for the purposes of determining items to be considered by the Emerging Powers Sub-Committee, is the NSC operating with any firm definition of 'emerging powers '?

The term 'emerging power' is being used to refer to countries whose geopolitical influence is growing and expected to be ever more influential in the next 5–10 years. These countries are broadly outside Europe and North America, where the UK already has very deep and well developed relationships. We do not have a set of fixed criteria for determining where to draw the lines, but look at a combination of factors such as political, commercial, military and economic influence, and where the benefits to be accrued from elevating bilateral relations are in the UK's wider interests. Such countries will typically offer the greatest new potential sources of commercial opportunity to the UK.

3. Would it be possible for the bilateral strategies being approved by the Sub-Committee-such as the one recently approved on Brazil-to be shared with the FAC, if necessary on an in-confidence or classified basis? The FAC is taking an interest in this as it will shortly be launching an inquiry into UK-Brazil relations.

The FCO intend to provide detailed information on UK-Brazil relations as part of their input to the Committee's Inquiry. This will cover the full range of UK activity with Brazil. However, bilateral strategies being approved by the Emerging Powers Sub-Committee would not be shared with the FAC. Papers of the National Security Council and its sub-committees are treated in the same way as other Cabinet Committee papers. Information relating to the proceedings of Cabinet Committees is generally not disclosed as to do so would put at risk the public interest in both collective responsibility and the full and frank discussion of policy by Ministers. This is consistent with longstanding practice.

4. Could you confirm whether the NSC, or an NSC body has taken a discussion of the security implications of climate change, late last year? Which department or body provided the relevant paper(s)?

The NSC met on 16 November 2010 to discuss climate change, including its security implications. Papers were drafted by the Department for Energy and Climate Change.

5. With regard to Sir Peter's written answer A1Ob), the Committee would welcome an update on funding and governance arrangements for the Critical Capabilities Pool when these have been agreed.

In January the National Security Council Official Committee on Counter Proliferation (NSC(OCP)) agreed on the Structure of the counter proliferation Critical Capabilities Pool (CCP). The CCP will contain several programmatic elements, with resources being prioritised for the Government's work to:

Strengthen nuclear and biological security globally;

Reduce the risk to national security from States' illicit acquisition of Weapons of Mass Destruction and their means of delivery;

Support the international system of organisations, treaties and regimes that underpins global security such as the International Atomic Energy Agency, the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention.

In addition, the CCP will contain resources for security-related science and technology work in the radiological and nuclear, and chemical and biological fields.

Work to allocate resources within the CCP is still ongoing. Alignment of those resources against the strategic objectives for the Government's counter proliferation work will be ensured through the governance mechanism for CP that was announced within the Strategic Defence & Security Review.

7 February 2011