FO flies boldly in the face of market forces

The Foreign Office has devoted an entire page of its 1995 annual report to a justification of the expenditure of £16.7m last year on the British Embassy in Paris and the ambassador's residence, "one of the finest diplomatic buildings in the world".

The 123-page report, issued yesterday, outlines the aims and objectives of British foreign policy while defending the Foreign Office against parliamentary criticism of lavish spending.

"There will be a tendency in today's world to search through the pages that follow for the bottom line," the Foreign Secretary, Douglas Hurd, concedes in a somewhat ambiguous introduction. But the bottom line is omnipresent through a comprehensive survey of British diplomacy and aid, extending even to the solemn inclusion of the initials VFM - Value For Money - in an index of official acronyms.

The report includes expenditure estimates of £836m for diplomacy in 1995-6 presented to parliament by Mr Hurd yesterday. This compares, the Foreign Office says, with estimated spending of £950m by Birmingham City Council last year.

The Foreign Office is responding to what one senior diplomat has privately termed the "rather weary ideology" of market testing, outside consultancy and the threat of performance-related fixed contracts.

It has therefore boldly - if, perhaps, rashly - decided to highlight the Paris embassy under Sir Christopher Mallaby, with eight counsellors and 19 first secretaries among its 89 UK-based staff, renowned for the glory of its official residence on the rue du Faubourg Saint-Honor, a building purchased in 1814 for £36,000.

Explaining Sir Christopher's current £359,000 entertainment budget as "a tool of the diplomatic trade", the Foreign Office points out that the residence played host last year to three members of the royal family, 20 government ministers, 57 MPs and almost 7,000 British and French businessmen.

In fact the residential properties abroad - 215 residences for envoys and 3,300 staff houses or flats - range from a gracious ambassadorial villa perched on the shores of Lake Geneva to a dusty estate of small houses in Riyadh's diplomatic compound, known to its inhabitants as "Brookside".

The thrust of the report is an attempt to come to terms with forces of economic rationalism that have cut through the civil service and, in the minds of many Foreign Office officials, risk submitting the unquantifiable art of diplomacy to the inflexible logic of accountants.

The report shows that out of 21 recruits last year to the lite "fast stream" of the diplomatic service, about three-quarters were at Oxford or Cambridge, more than half attended independent schools, less than a third were women and none came from ethnic minorities.

The Foreign Office says it wants to encourage advancement of women, recognising that with only three female ambassadors and five women at Senior Grade, its record needs improvement.

It offers women a maternity package, special unpaid leave, flexible working hours, part-time work, jobsharing and childcare help.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Digital Marketing Consultant

£28000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Digital Marketing Cons...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Stores Keeper

£16640 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Assistant Stores Keeper is r...

Recruitment Genius: Claims Administrator

£16000 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportunit...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer - C# / ASP.NET / SQL

£17000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Developer required to join a bu...

Day In a Page

'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

Everyone is talking about The Trews

Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before
'Queer saint' Peter Watson left his mark on British culture by bankrolling artworld giants

'Queer saint' who bankrolled artworld giants

British culture owes a huge debt to Peter Watson, says Michael Prodger
Pushkin Prizes: Unusual exchange programme aims to bring countries together through culture

Pushkin Prizes brings countries together

Ten Scottish schoolchildren and their Russian peers attended a creative writing workshop in the Highlands this week
14 best kids' hoodies

14 best kids' hoodies

Don't get caught out by that wind on the beach. Zip them up in a lightweight top to see them through summer to autumn
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The acceptable face of the Emirates

The acceptable face of the Emirates

Has Abu Dhabi found a way to blend petrodollars with principles, asks Robert Fisk