The Role of the FCO in UK Government - Foreign Affairs Committee Contents

2  FCO priorities

Official priorities

37.  Since 1997, the FCO has had publicly-stated priorities or objectives. These have been of two types: those required by and agreed with the Treasury or Cabinet Office, as part of a cross-Government exercise undertaken with all departments; and those set 'voluntarily' by successive Foreign Secretaries as his or her priorities for the department.

38.  Under William Hague and the current Government, the FCO has two sets of priorities. The Foreign Secretary announced his three priorities for the department in July 2010. These were to:

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; and
  • support British nationals around the world through modern and efficient consular services.[66]

39.   A quite separate, centrally-driven, set of priorities for the FCO was announced in November 2010.[67] In common with those of other departments, these are known as Structural Reform Priorities, and derive from the Coalition's Programme for Government. As for other departments, a departmental Structural Reform Plan sets out how the FCO is to pursue these priorities; the Plan sets out "milestones" to be achieved. The Structural Reform Priorities and Structural Reform Plan are included in an overall Business Plan for the department for 2011-15.[68] The FCO has five Structural Reform Priorities. These are to:

  • 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; and
  • 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.[69]

40.  In addition to Mr Hague's three priorities and the five set out in its Structural Reform Plan, the FCO is working to the framework established by the 2010 National Security Strategy (NSS) and Strategic Defence and Security Review (SDSR). Under the SDSR, the FCO is the lead department for three of the Government's 10 national security priority areas: state threats and counter-proliferation; the security impacts of climate change and resource competition; and the foreign policy aspects of "building stability overseas", an overall area in which lead responsibility is taken jointly by the FCO and DFID.[70]

41.  Our predecessor Committee commented favourably when, for the three-year spending review period starting in 2008/09 under the previous Government, the priorities for the FCO set out by the Foreign Secretary aligned fully for the first time with those agreed with the Treasury. Under David Miliband's 2008 Strategic Framework for the FCO, the eight priorities which he announced were also the FCO's centrally-agreed Departmental Strategic Objectives (DSOs). From 2008/09 the previous Government also operated a system of cross-Government Public Service Agreements (PSAs); the FCO was lead department for one PSA, which also mapped onto one of its DSOs.[71]

42.  Current and former Foreign Secretaries and some of the former FCO officials who gave evidence broadly felt that there was a value to the FCO agreeing and publicly stating a set of priorities. David Miliband told us that "the process of having to explain what you're for, what you exist for and what you're trying to achieve over a three to five-year period is useful".[72] Lord Jay said that the exercise ensured that departmental structures and resources followed priorities;[73] and William Hague said that the FCO's Business Plan helped "to bring into line the internal organisation and external presentation of our work".[74]

43.  Other witnesses were less convinced of the value of setting out formal priorities. A number of witnesses suggested that over a decade's worth of formal priority-setting had left the FCO less, not more, clear about its purpose—not least because of the frequency with which formal priorities had been changed. Charles Crawford, and a group of former FCO diplomats led by Peter W Marshall, both referred to "confusion" at the department;[75] we have already referred (in paragraph 19 in the Introduction) to Caterina Tully's assessment that the FCO's purpose had become "blurred".[76]

44.  As part of the centrally-driven priorities exercise since 1997, departments have been required to engage in formal performance measurement and reporting, including in quantitative terms. Such reporting has been a central element in the increased 'managerialism' at the FCO which Sir Peter Marshall identified as one of the "modern discontents" at the department (and which we discuss throughout our Report).[77] Apart from other possible effects of such reporting, several of our witnesses argued that the use of performance measurement had a distorting effect on the FCO's priorities, because, in the words of Sir Oliver Miles CMG, former Ambassador to Libya, "activities that can be measured come to be regarded as more important than those that cannot".[78] Outcomes in the economic and commercial sphere, and in consular services, are by their nature easier to quantify than their counterparts in the traditional diplomatic field. Sir Peter Marshall and former High Commissioner Sir Edward Clay, among other witnesses, noted with concern that the FCO's 'service' roles—i.e. the provision of services to UK business and to UK nationals abroad—appeared to have been receiving ever-greater weight in the department's work in recent years.[79] While economic work has been recognised as part of the FCO's role for much of the 20th Century, among post-1997 statements of FCO priorities consular work made its first appearance in 2000 and has since remained a fixture. Sir Edward told us that "successive governments have [...] increasingly behaved as if service delivery is the [FCO's] only or chief function at the cost of policy formation and implementation".[80] It is notable that William Hague's three priorities for the FCO—security, prosperity and consular services—are the fewest in any such set since 1997, and that by definition the two 'service' elements therefore have a relatively greater weight than in previous such lists.

45.  Neither Mr Hague's three priorities for the FCO nor the department's Strategic Reform Priorities include a statement of the department's overarching role for the Government in formulating and delivering foreign policy, distinct from the priority awarded to particular policies or areas of work—what some might call an overall FCO 'mission statement'. The various sets of official FCO priorities over recent years have varied in this respect. Under the 2000 Spending Review, it was an FCO objective to provide "authoritative, comprehensive information on foreign issues for UK decision-takers", and to secure "pivotal influence worldwide over decisions and actions which affect UK interests".[81] Similar formulations appeared under the 2002 Spending Review; but statements of the FCO's overarching policy role for the Government then disappeared from centrally-driven sets of departmental objectives until the 2007 Spending Review. The FCO's overarching role for the Government did not feature among the eight formal priorities set out in Jack Straw's December 2003 UK International Priorities White Paper, but the document contained the fullest recent official description of the FCO's function, namely:

co-ordination and leadership of the UK's international policies; expert foreign policy advice for Ministers and the Prime Minister, feeding into the wider policy process; pursuing UK interests in crisis areas around the world; negotiating for the UK with other countries and in international organisations; rapid gathering, analysis and targeting of information for the Government and others; promoting and explaining UK policies to public audiences around the world, to shape opinion on issues which matter to us; direct services abroad to UK citizens and business; and organising international contacts for members of the Royal Family, Parliamentarians, Ministers, business people and others.[82]

The 2007 Spending Review and David Miliband's post-2008 Strategic Framework reinstated a statement of the FCO's role for the Government among the department's formal objectives. Rather than the policy advisory function included under the 2000 and 2002 Spending Reviews, however, the post-2008 framework defined the FCO's contribution as providing "a flexible global network serving the whole of the British Government".[83]

46.  Mr Hague set out most fully his view of the FCO's role for the Government in his first major speech as Foreign Secretary, in July 2010. He told the FCO that thenceforward its job would be

to provide the connections and ideas that allow the whole of the British state and British society to exercise maximum influence in the world and to give the lead that allows foreign policy to be supported actively by other government departments.[84]

47.  We have received evidence that, despite over a decade of formal priority- and objective-setting, the FCO's institutional purpose has become "confused" and "blurred". We note that, under the current Government, the three priorities which the Foreign Secretary has set out for the FCO do not map on to the five set out in the department's Business Plan, required by the Cabinet Office, nor the three areas of lead responsibility allocated to the FCO under the 2010 Strategic Defence and Security Review. We have no quarrel with the content of any of these priority areas of work for the FCO. However, the existence of several sets of priorities which do not fully coincide appears confusing, and is a less streamlined arrangement than that which obtained for the department from 2008/09 under the previous Government. We recommend that in its response to this Report the FCO set out its priorities in a single statement, encompassing those set out by the Foreign Secretary, those contained in the department's 2011-15 Business Plan and those established in the 2010 Strategic Defence and Security Review.

48.  We further conclude that there would be a value in formulating, and stating on a more enduring basis alongside the FCO's priority policy objectives and areas of work, an overarching statement of the department's role for the Government—what some might call an FCO 'mission statement'. Such a statement should not be formally tied to budgetary settlements or reporting requirements between the FCO and the centre of government. Rather, it should serve as a reminder to the FCO of its core purpose, and to other parts of Government as to what they should—and should not—expect the FCO's prime contribution to be. We welcome the Foreign Secretary's clear conception, set out in his July 2010 speech to the department, of the role that the FCO should play.

Commercial work

49.  The increased emphasis placed on trade and investment promotion and UK commercial interests has been probably the most widely-noted aspect of the Government's foreign policy, and of William Hague's plans for the FCO. The Prime Minister has said that the UK must "plac[e] our commercial interest at the heart of our foreign policy".[85] He has said that this would require "quite a big step change in our approach to foreign and diplomatic relations".[86] The FCO told us that "a key function of British foreign policy is to support the UK economic recovery";[87] the Foreign Secretary has described supporting British business as an "existential mission" for the FCO.[88] To implement this, Mr Hague told us in September that he "aim[ed] to establish a new commercial culture across the FCO and throughout our overseas posts".[89]

50.  In terms of foreign policy, the Government's rationale for pursuing UK commercial interests is that restored economic strength is the necessary foundation for UK influence internationally—as both the source of the resources required for a global military and diplomatic capability, and a key element in the UK's international reputation. The Foreign Secretary told the FCO in July 2010 that:

We must recognise the virtuous circle between foreign policy and prosperity. Our foreign policy helps create our prosperity and our prosperity underwrites our diplomacy, our security, our defence and our ability to give to others less fortunate than ourselves.[90]

51.  The FCO's Permanent Under-Secretary (PUS), Simon Fraser, is leading the effort to give the department a greater commercial focus. Mr Fraser's appointment as PUS in July 2010 was widely interpreted as a sign of the 'new commercialism' at the FCO: although the FCO was his original department, he had served two periods working for the European Trade Commissioner and been Permanent Secretary at the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) before returning to the FCO. Among other steps taken in pursuit of the 'new commercialism' at the FCO:

  • the Foreign Secretary has established a joint FCO/UKTI Commercial Task Force, to be overseen by the new Trade Minister (already a joint FCO/BIS position);
  • the FCO teams in London working on trade and support for the UK economy have been strengthened;
  • the training on offer to FCO staff in economic and commercial matters is to be enhanced; and
  • Ministers from all departments are to be briefed to "press key commercial issues in every meeting and visit" with overseas interlocutors.[91]

The Foreign Secretary told us in September 2010 that he had "made clear that Ambassadors and High Commissioners will be expected to meet challenging targets for UK exports and inward investment to the UK".[92]

52.  Several of our witnesses greeted the 'new commercialism' at the FCO with a degree of scepticism. They pointed out both that trade and investment promotion was already an important part of the FCO's work; and that previous Governments—especially new ones—had launched commercial drives at the FCO before, which had sometimes petered out.[93]

53.  We heard divergent views about the wisdom and viability of prioritising trade within foreign policy. Lord Hennessy put forward the argument that trade can help international relations: "As you get more embedded into a trading relationship, the harder it is for aggression, lack of understanding, and indeed parodying of each other, to flourish". He also suggested that holding out trade or commercial prospects could be a useful foreign policy tool.[94] However, David Miliband warned against reducing foreign policy to what he called "low-grade mercantilism"; he contended that commercial ties were only likely to develop on the basis of longer-term and much broader relationships, and that major states would expect their relationship with the UK to encompass other areas of interest to them.[95] A number of witnesses agreed with the Government's basic proposition, that pursuing UK commercial interests—and the international economic environment that would allow them to flourish—was a legitimate foreign policy objective, especially in current economic circumstances.

54.   We heard of two potential difficulties for the FCO in giving commercial work high priority.[96] One was the risk of diverting time, resources and focus away from core foreign policy and diplomatic tasks, primarily at overseas posts. Sir Jeremy Greenstock warned that the FCO's provision of services, such as to UK businesses, "must not take away the skills that are necessary for Government" in international policy-making, which "must be at the core of what an Embassy does".[97] Sir Malcolm Rifkind did not wish to see trade made the prime purpose of FCO posts or the prime reason for the appointment of particular Ambassadors, and said that "the public interest would greatly suffer" if diplomatic staff were required to spend "a substantial proportion of their time" on commercial work.[98] However, both the Foreign Secretary and Simon Fraser said that the 'new commercialism' at the FCO would not necessarily mean that other activity would be curtailed: they wished to change the FCO's "mindset" and to build the commercial priority into all aspects of the department's work.[99]

55.  The second potential difficulty was whether FCO staff had—or could acquire—the knowledge and outlook required to be able to promote UK commercial interests effectively. Lord Owen was doubtful on this point. He suggested that—rather than seeking to re-skill FCO staff—it would be better to give language skills to staff from other departments, and deploy them to FCO posts overseas.[100] The former FCO diplomat Alastair Newton—who now works for Nomura International (although he gave evidence in a private capacity)—was clear that FCO diplomats should not be negotiating on behalf of individual companies, or acquiring detailed technical knowledge of particular sectors or industries. However, on the basis of his own career, he felt that an FCO diplomat was capable of becoming sufficiently conversant in economic and commercial matters to be able to assist UK business. He said that it was "very much a question of attitude".[101] Mr Newton supplied some low-cost concrete suggestions for further enhancing the FCO's familiarity with the City in particular, such as regular meetings between senior FCO staff and representatives of the financial sector.[102]

56.  Mr Newton argued against separating traditional foreign policy work from commercially-focused activity because, in his view, the former supported the latter.[103] There was a widespread consensus among our witnesses on what UK business wanted from the FCO and UK diplomats: in David Miliband's words, "real understanding of the political scene and who are the movers and shakers" in any given country.[104] Sir Jeremy Greenstock, Sir Oliver Miles and former Ambassador Sir John Graham GCMG all identified country knowledge as the factor that the FCO could usefully contribute for business.[105] The CBI stated that there was a "vital" role for the FCO and UKTI in supporting UK companies, "in particular the expertise and intelligence provided by overseas posts", and it identified "political insights" and "contact networks" as the key contributions required from Heads of Mission.[106] The City of London Corporation stated that it would welcome greater access to the economic and trade reporting coming in from the FCO's overseas network.[107] Sir Jeremy Greenstock also referred to the access that senior diplomats in-country could have to foreign governments, to lobby for UK economic and commercial interests.[108]

57.  The Foreign Secretary expressed support for the principle of appointing business figures to some Ambassadorial positions.[109] A number of witnesses, most notably former FCO Deputy Legal Adviser Anthony Aust, were opposed to this idea.[110] They cautioned that non-diplomats were often unlikely to have the skills required to perform effectively as an Ambassador—even in supporting UK business, given the prime requirement identified for Ambassadors to supply country-specific political intelligence. On the basis of his own experience and other cases known to him, Alastair Newton also warned that the FCO was unlikely to be able to offer a remuneration package that would be attractive to senior City figures.[111]

58.  While broadly welcoming the FCO's intensified engagement with commercial matters, the City of London Corporation warned it against overshadowing—or triggering unintended confusion or competition with—UKTI, BIS or the Treasury. The Corporation stated that the City looked for a 'joined-up' approach, ideally with UKTI as the lead direct contact for companies, and with the FCO, BIS and the Treasury providing strategic capacity.[112]

59.  We conclude that the Government's strengthened focus on pursuing UK economic and commercial interests as part of the UK's foreign relations must not come about at the expense of the FCO's core foreign policy functions. Commercial work must not prevent FCO staff, primarily in overseas posts, from having sufficient time to provide high-class non-commercial reporting and judgement and to maintain a wide range of local contacts. Given the resource constraints which the FCO faces, we doubt whether the department can achieve the Government's ambitions for enhanced commercial work while maintaining its core foreign policy functions at the required standard.

60.  We conclude that the most valuable service that FCO diplomats can provide to UK business is intelligence on the political, economic, commercial and cultural situation in foreign states, and advice on dealing with their governments and peoples. We further conclude that, with appropriate training and a lead from the department's management and senior staff, FCO diplomats are capable of assisting UK business in this non-technical but invaluable way. We recommend that business work which requires more specialist knowledge or skills be carried out by staff of other departments or agencies (primarily UKTI), or FCO local staff, working in FCO overseas posts.

Human rights and UK values

61.  The Government's stress on UK commercial interests has been interpreted by some as implying that human rights and other ethical or 'values' considerations are being given lesser priority in the work of the FCO. The Foreign Secretary denied that this was the case. He told us that "at no stage in our conduct of policy do we reduce the emphasis on human rights for any commercial reason". He argued that the 'new commercialism' would enhance the FCO's pursuit of other objectives: "a foreign policy that did not have that commercial emphasis [...] would be in a weaker position to bring about all our other goals".[113] Mr Hague has placed the FCO's work on human rights and good governance overseas in the context of his view that "as a democratic country we must have a foreign policy based on values, as an extension of our identity as a society".[114] Under Mr Hague, the FCO is continuing to publish an annual human rights report; the first such report under the current Government was published as a Command Paper on 31 March 2011.[115] We are continuing our predecessor Committee's practice of conducting an annual inquiry into the FCO's human rights work, on the basis of the department's report; we expect to report to the House on this subject before the 2011 Summer Recess.[116]

62.  In a speech in March 2011, made after the Government's decision to participate in the UN-mandated international military action to protect civilians in Libya, and as movements demanding political liberalisation were seen in many Arab states, the Foreign Secretary appeared to signal a more forward position from the Government on overseas human rights and democratisation. He said:

The desire for freedom is a universal aspiration, and governments that attempt to isolate their people from the spread of information and ideas around the globe will fight a losing battle over time.

Governments that use violence to stop democratic development will not earn themselves respite forever. They will pay an increasingly high price for actions which they can no longer hide from the world with ease, and will find themselves on the wrong side of history.

Governments that block the aspirations of their people, that steal or are corrupt, that oppress and torture or that deny freedom of expression and human rights should bear in mind that they will increasingly find it hard to escape the judgement of their own people, or where warranted, the reach of international law.[117]

63.  We welcome the fact that under the current Government the FCO is continuing to produce a hard copy annual human rights report, and that the March 2011 report appears to be a substantial document. We will examine the FCO's report and its human rights work further in our 2011 human rights inquiry.

64.  Several witnesses cautioned against any assumption that upholding human rights and other ethical considerations must always or necessarily conflict with more narrowly-defined UK national interests. For example, Sir Malcolm Rifkind placed human rights in the wider context of the rule of law. He argued that pursuing commercial ties could be an effective way of leveraging a strengthening of the rule of law in some foreign states.[118]

65.  Sir Edward Clay suggested that a particular difficulty for UK diplomats promoting human rights and good governance abroad arose when those values were contradicted by UK domestic measures. He told us that "among the worst things a British diplomat can expect is to take a high profile on human rights or governance issues, only to be undermined by her or his government breaching our own standards".[119] The Foreign Secretary has shown awareness of this risk: he told the FCO in July 2010 that the existence of "the networked world requires us to inspire other people with how we live up to our own values rather than try to impose them, because now they are able to see in more detail whether we meet our own standards and make up their own minds about that".[120] The FCO highlighted the fact that it had published for the first time consolidated guidance given to intelligence and service personnel on the interviewing of detainees, which "makes public the longstanding policy that our personnel are never authorised to proceed with action where they know or believe that torture will occur".[121] The Government has also announced an inquiry into whether the UK was implicated in the improper treatment of detainees held by other countries in the 'war on terror' after the attacks of 11 September 2001.

66.  We welcome the Foreign Secretary's assurances that the promotion of human rights overseas remains a leading objective for the FCO. We conclude that the FCO has an additional, vital, contribution to make to UK Government, in ensuring that the Government is aware in its decision-making of international perceptions of its policies in the UK with respect to human rights and good governance. Perceived hypocrisy can be deeply undermining of FCO efforts to promote human rights and good governance overseas. We welcome the Foreign Secretary's stated recognition of this point.

67.  Sir Edward Clay did not accept that promoting UK commercial interests and upholding good governance overseas were necessarily contradictory objectives. However, he argued that a conflict for UK diplomats might arise specifically with respect to their objective of combating corruption. He suggested that this might become especially acute in the context of the Bribery Act 2010, which is due to come into force on 1 July 2011 after the Ministry of Justice issued further guidance on the legislation at the end of March.[122] Sir Edward suggested that UK diplomats abroad, while tasked with helping UK business, would be obliged under the Act to report UK companies or their representatives if they were aware of evidence that such companies had committed an offence under the Act.[123] In its March 2011 human rights report, the FCO said that "UK officials overseas are [...] required to report allegations of UK involvement in foreign bribery to the Serious Fraud Office [...] The Bribery Act is a clear signal of our commitment to ensure that the fight against bribery and corruption supports UK companies".[124]

68.  We recommend that, before the relevant FCO Minister gives evidence to our 2011 human rights inquiry, the FCO write to us setting out its understanding of the implications—if any—of the Bribery Act 2010 for FCO diplomats, other UK civil servants and local staff serving at FCO overseas posts, in the context of such officials' work supporting UK commercial interests overseas. We further recommend that the FCO should share with us any guidance that is being issued to staff at FCO overseas posts on this issue.

69.  The FCO's former Legal Adviser, Sir Michael Wood KCMG, wrote to us setting out the FCO's "key role [...] within Government in ensuring both that the UK Government itself conforms to international law, and that the UK Government promotes the rule of law internationally".[125] Sir Michael set out the work of the FCO's Legal Advisers, within the department and for the whole of Government. He said, for example, that FCO Legal Advisers act as the Government's representative in most cases involving the Government before international courts and tribunals, whichever department is most directly implicated; that they are directly engaged when the UN or EU is adopting sanctions decisions and in the drafting of the relevant UK implementing legislation; and that they provide advice across Government on matters of public international law.[126] Sir Michael highlighted in particular the "key importance" of the relationship between the FCO and its Legal Advisers and the Attorney General, whose remit as the Government's principal legal adviser extends to questions of public international law. Sir Michael noted that it has long been the practice for a senior FCO lawyer to be seconded to the Attorney General's Office.[127]

70.  Dr Oliver Daddow of Loughborough University argued that "to be seen to be abiding by the tenets of international law can be one way in which the FCO leads on helping Britain once more be seen to be a 'good international citizen'".[128]

71.  We conclude that one of the FCO's most important contributions to UK Government is in advising and representing it on matters of international law, with the aim of promoting the upholding of international law and UK compliance with it. In this context, we further conclude that the relationship between the FCO and its Legal Advisers and the Attorney General, the Government's chief legal adviser, is of key importance.

Overseas Territories

72.  Among Government departments, the FCO has responsibility for the UK's 14 Overseas Territories (OTs). In respect of all other areas of its work, the FCO is responsible for pursuing the Government's policies vis-à-vis foreign states; whereas, in respect of the OTs, the FCO is ultimately responsible for their governance (as well as their external relations). Given that the OTs have their own governments, the FCO's responsibility for the OTs means that "a delicate balance has to be struck between respecting the autonomy of the territories and making sure that appropriate standards are observed"[129] and international obligations are upheld.

73.  In David Miliband's 2008 Strategic Framework for the FCO, the reference to the OTs which had previously been included among the department's priorities disappeared. It has not been restored in the various sets of priorities set out for the FCO under the current Government. In its major Report on the Overseas Territories in 2008, our predecessor Committee identified particular challenges that its role in relation to the OTs poses for the FCO, as well as serious problems arising in connection with a number of Territories, above all the Turks and Caicos Islands (TCI). The Committee concluded that the FCO "must take its oversight responsibilities for the Overseas Territories more seriously".[130] In this context, the previous Committee welcomed the assurances which it received from the previous Government that the disappearance of any reference to the OTs from the FCO's official priorities did not imply any downgrading in the importance which the department attached to this area of its responsibilities.[131] Nevertheless, at the end of the previous Parliament (in its last Report on an FCO departmental annual report, in March 2010), and in light of continuing problems in a number of OTs (most notably TCI), our predecessor Committee felt obliged to declare itself still "unconvinced that the department [was] exercising its responsibilities for them with sufficient diligence".[132]

74.  We received two submissions to our present inquiry stressing the importance of the FCO's role with respect to the OTs. The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) and the UK Overseas Territories Conservation Forum (UKOTCF) both emphasised the importance of: the FCO's role in representing the OTs to Government and officialdom in London, and ensuring that the UK public is aware of the Territories; its duty to ensure that other departments take the OTs elements of their responsibilities seriously; and its direct responsibilities for the OTs, particularly with respect to biodiversity and the environment, and including the quality of OTs Governors' work on these issues.[133]

75.  The Government intends to publish a White Paper on the OTs later in 2011. The Foreign Secretary told the House on 10 March that he planned to secure cross-departmental agreement through the National Security Council (NSC) to the strategy underpinning the White Paper. The Foreign Secretary also announced increased funding for some OTs projects and programmes.[134] Both the RSPB and the UKOTCF welcomed what they saw as early signs that under the current Government the FCO was devoting greater effort to OTs matters.[135] However, we have continued to be made aware of serious problems in TCI.

76.  We conclude that the FCO's responsibility for the UK's Overseas Territories (OTs) constitutes an important—but sometimes overlooked—part of its role in UK Government, and one that needs to be discharged with due seriousness. We welcome indications that the Government is seeking to strengthen the FCO's work on the OTs, including by making a greater effort to lead across Government on OTs matters. We look forward to engaging with the Government on its planned White Paper on the OTs, and may return to the issue of the FCO's role in respect of the Territories in that context.

66   Ev 77 [FCO] Back

67   HC Deb, 8 November 2010, col 25-35WS Back

68   FCO Business Plan 2011-2015, available at Back

69   Ev 77-78 [FCO] Back

70   HM Government, Securing Britain in an Age of Uncertainty: The Strategic Defence and Security Review, Cm 7948, October 2010, p 69 Back

71   Foreign Affairs Committee, Second Report of Session 2008-09, Foreign and Commonwealth Office Annual Report 2007-08, HC 195, paras 9-40; Foreign Affairs Committee, Fifth Report of Session 2009-10, Foreign and Commonwealth Office Annual Report 2008-09, HC 145, paras 288-290 Back

72   Q 102 Back

73   Q 50 Back

74   Q 296 Back

75   Ev w29 [Charles Crawford], w62 [Peter W Marshall and others] Back

76   Ev w58 Back

77   Ev 66-67 [Sir Peter Marshall]; see paras 24, 93-97,152-156. Back

78   Ev w47 Back

79   Ev w27 [Sir Edward Clay], w62 [Sir Peter Marshall] Back

80   Ev w27 Back

81 Back

82   FCO, UK International Priorities: A Strategy for the FCO, Cm 6052, December 2003, p 9 Back

83   HC Deb, 23 January 2008, col 52-53WS; Foreign Affairs Committee, Fifth Report of Session 2009-10, Foreign and Commonwealth Office Annual Report 2008-09, HC 145, paras 72, 288 Back

84   William Hague, "Britain's Foreign Policy in a Networked World", FCO, London, 1 July 2010 Back

85   David Cameron, speech to Lord Mayor's Banquet, Mansion House, London, 15 November 2010 Back

86   David Cameron, speech to UKTI business summit, 14 July 2010 Back

87   Ev 84 Back

88   "Man on an existential mission for British business", Financial Times, 14 July 2010 Back

89   Letter to the Chair from the Foreign Secretary, 2 September 2010, printed with "Developments in UK Foreign Policy", oral evidence taken before the Foreign Affairs Committee on 8 September 2010, HC (2010-11) 438-i, Ev 26 Back

90   William Hague, "Britain's Foreign Policy in a Networked World", FCO, London, 1 July 2010 Back

91   Letter to the Chair from the Foreign Secretary, 2 September 2010, printed with "Developments in UK Foreign Policy", oral evidence taken before the Foreign Affairs Committee on 8 September 2010, HC (2010-11) 438-i, Ev 26-27 Back

92   Ibid., Ev 27 Back

93   Qq 15 [Lord Hennessy], 108 [David Miliband]; Ev w27 [Sir Edward Clay]. The Plowden Report of 1964, as quoted by Sir Peter Marshall, concluded that "economic and commercial work must be regarded as a first charge on the resource of the overseas services"; Ev w72. Back

94   Qq 16-17 Back

95   Q 108 Back

96   Apart from the potential tension with human rights promotion work, which we discuss in the next section. Back

97   Q 173 Back

98   Qq 91, 108 Back

99   "Developments in UK Foreign Policy", oral evidence taken before the Foreign Affairs Committee on 8 September 2010, HC (2010-11) 438-i, Q 42 Back

100   Ev w12 Back

101   Q 238 Back

102   Ev 141 Back

103   Q 238 Back

104   Q 108 Back

105   Q 173 [Sir Jeremy Greenstock]; Ev w48 [Sir Oliver Miles], w52 [Sir John Graham] Back

106   Ev w85-86 Back

107   Ev w41 Back

108   Q 175 Back

109   Q 298 Back

110   Ev w45 Back

111   Q 234 Back

112   Ev w41 Back

113   Q 297 Back

114   William Hague, "Britain's values in a networked world", Lincoln's Inn, London, 15 September 2010 Back

115   FCO, Human Rights and Democracy: The 2010 Foreign & Commonwealth Office Report, Cm 8017, March 2011 Back

116   "Announcement of new inquiry: The FCO's human rights work 2010-11", Foreign Affairs Committee press release, 31 March 2011 Back

117   William Hague, speech to The Times CEO Summit Africa, London, 22 March 2011 Back

118   Q 108 Back

119   Ev w29 Back

120   William Hague, "Britain's Foreign Policy in a Networked World", FCO, London, 1 July 2010 Back

121   Ev 91-92 Back

122   "UK clamps down on corruption with new Bribery Act", Ministry of Justice press release, 30 March 2011 Back

123   Ev w28-29 Back

124   FCO, Human Rights and Democracy: The 2010 Foreign & Commonwealth Office Report, Cm 8017, March 2011, pp 79-80 Back

125   Ev w48-49 Back

126   Ev w49-50 Back

127   Ev w49 Back

128   Ev w6 Back

129   Ev w42 [UK Overseas Territories Conservation Forum (UKOTCF)] Back

130   Foreign Affairs Committee, Seventh Report of Session 2007-08, Overseas Territories, HC 147, para 437 Back

131   Foreign Affairs Committee, Second Report of Session 2008-09, Foreign and Commonwealth Office Annual Report 2007-08, HC 195, paras 38-40 Back

132   Foreign Affairs Committee, Fifth Report of Session 2009-10, Foreign and Commonwealth Office Annual Report 2008-09, HC 145, para 326; see also Foreign Affairs Committee, Seventh Report of Session 2009-10, Turks and Caicos Islands, HC 469. Back

133   Ev w35-36 [RSPB], w42-43 [UKOTCF] Back

134   HC Deb, 10 March 2011, col 76-77WS Back

135   Ev w36-37 [RSPB], w42 [UKOTCF] Back

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Prepared 12 May 2011