HC Deb 18 December 1974 vol 883 cc1551-2
3. Mr. Aitken

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what proportion of British diplomats serving in Her Majesty's embassies overseas are engaged in furthering British exports.

The Minister of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr. David Ennals)

About one-quarter of our diplomatic staff overseas are engaged full time on export promotion. Many of our other diplomats also contribute to the work of furthering British exports, which is a first charge on the resources of the Diplomatic Service.

Mr. Aitken

Is the Minister aware that the overwhelming majority of commercial secretaries in British Embassies abroad are in the B grade of the Diplomatic Service? Can he explain why so many commercial secretaries should be given this apparent career disadvantage of second-class status, particularly at a time when British exports are so important? Will he take steps to sweep away these unnecessary distinctions between Foreign Office personnel doing equally important jobs?

Mr. Ennals

I would not accept the suggestion that these people are in any way second-class citizens. Some of them in fact hold high status in the Diplomatic Service. I shall look into the points that the hon. Gentleman has raised, but we greatly respect and admire, as well as encourage, the work which is done by these members of the Diplomatic Service.

Mr. Craigen

Are these members specially chosen for their commercial experience?

Mr. Ennals

Those to whom I am referring at present are mostly career diplomats. Sometimes people are seconded from the Department of Trade. They have special training before they go, which includes work with commercial firms, and they are chosen because of knowledge of the market concerned. But we are greatly increasing the number who are locally recruited, and are recruited because of their commercial knowledge, in the country in which they are serving.

Back to