MPs warn over Foreign Office cuts

 

The Foreign Office is underfunded and further cuts could damage its ability to successfully operate for Britain overseas, a committee of MPs said.

The Foreign Affairs Committee has carried out its annual review into the work of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) and while praising the "impressive" work done within tight financial constraints, it said reduced budgets "will have a detrimental impact".

It warned the diplomats should not become an "international English language school" as a result of changes to the British Council. The report said this "risks a diminution of the UK's influence and soft power".

Launching the annual report, chairman Richard Ottaway said: "The FCO does a good job in challenging circumstances but the budget cuts demanded by the Spending Review 2010 (SR2010) will exacerbate long-term problems caused by continued cost-cutting in the FCO.

"I am therefore disappointed in the lack of information provided to Parliament as to how the FCO is to meet its spending reductions target.

"Last year, my committee produced a report into the outcome of the SR2010 for the FCO. We concluded that SR2010 may turn out to have had a very damaging effect on the Department's ability to promote and safeguard UK interests overseas.

"The decisions so far taken by the FCO to implement the SR2010, including reductions in the deployment of UK-based staff overseas and the planned programme of property sales, have indicated that our initial conclusions were correct."

Cuts of £40 million are still being identified, which the MPs said was "disappointing".

And the committee urged the Treasury to loosen rules on property sales to ensure the FCO could deliver taxpayers best value for any sales, concluding the FCO's target of £60 million of annual asset sales was "extremely optimistic".

Additionally, the committee recommended the FCO rule out selling any "historic or prestigious" buildings in a bid to hit the targets and fund capital investments.

After hearing evidence on the changes to the BBC World Service - which is set to be transferred from the FCO in 2014 - the committee welcomed the appointment of Lord Williams as International Trustee for the service.

But the report said: "We maintain our earlier belief that a formal concordat governing the World Service's budget and output should be drawn up setting out the World Service's independence from budgetary pressures elsewhere in the BBC.

"The Government should monitor the role and performance of the International Trustee after 2014 when funding responsibility for the BBC World Service will be formally transferred from the FCO."

PA

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
Life and Style
tech
News
The 67P/CG comet as seen from the Philae lander
scienceThe most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Arts and Entertainment
Ian McKellen as Gandalf in The Hobbit: The Battle Of The Five Armies
film
Arts and Entertainment
Sarah Koenig, creator of popular podcast Serial, which is to be broadcast by the BBC
tvReview: The secret to the programme's success is that it allows its audience to play detective
News
Ruby Wax has previously written about her mental health problems in her book Sane New World
people
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executives - OTE £60,000

£25000 - £60000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you passionate about Custom...

Recruitment Genius: Care Workers Required - The London Borough of Bromley

£15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This homecare agency is based in Beckenh...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executives - OTE £50,000

£25000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you passionate about Custom...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executives - OTE £50,000

£25000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you passionate about Custom...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas