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
Barn owls are among species that could be affected
charity appeal
Sarah Silverman (middle) with sister Reform Rabbi Susan Silverman (right) and sister actress Laura Silverman (left) at Jerusalem's Western Wall for feminist Hanuka candle-lighting ceremony
peopleControversial comedian stages pro-equality Hanukkah lighting during a protest at Jerusalem's Wailing Wall
Arts and Entertainment
The Bach Choir has been crowned the inaugural winner of Sky Arts’ show The Great Culture Quiz
arts + ents140-year-old choir declared winner of Sky Arts' 'The Great Culture Quiz'
After another poor series in Sri Lanka, Alastair Cook claimed all players go through a lean period
cricketEoin Morgan reportedly to take over ODI captaincy
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
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: Finance Director

£65000 - £80000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Finance Director required to jo...

Recruitment Genius: Medico-Legal Assistant

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a unique opportunity fo...

Ashdown Group: (PHP / Python) - Global Media firm

£50000 per annum + 26 days holiday,pension: Ashdown Group: A highly successful...

The Jenrick Group: Quality Inspector

£27000 per annum + pension + holidays: The Jenrick Group: A Quality Technician...

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