Letter: Price to pay for closing the Commonwealth Institute

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The Independent Online
Sir: In May the Queen launched the centenary celebrations of the Commonwealth Institute from its headquarters in Kensington. She then said:

The Institute brings the reality of the individual countries of the Commonwealth alive and demonstrates the role the Commonwealth can play in the world and among its own members . . . the Institute's work in education is a constant reminder throughout our school system of the realities and values of today's Commonwealth . . .

Two months later a motion in the Commons, lending support to the Institute's work in the educational field, was signed by 132 MPs. Undeterred, the Government later announced that, as from 1996, Britain would be axing her pounds 2.7m funding grant to the Institute. This news was received with dismay in educational and cultural quarters throughout the Commonwealth.

May I, in the aftermath of the recent Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting in Cyprus, where delegations again expressed Commonwealth-wide dismay at the British decision, add my small plaint? I do so as a long-since retired governor of the Institute - a post held by virtue of having been Director of the Commonwealth Foundation. While this is financed by all Commonwealth countries, and the Institute by Britain alone, both organisations have co-operated fruitfully in projects covering the broad educational and professional fields; in the arts, music, applied sciences and technology, both in Britain and throughout the Commonwealth.

The Foundations's annual grant-making income rises steadily to the modest benefit of professionals throughout the Commonwealth. But what of the Institute? Are we to throw away this valuable centre, with its extensive programmes of activities, resources and facilities for British schools, professionals and the British public itself? Is pounds 2.7m a year too high a price to pay for the role which the Institute can and should still play in the educational and cultural fields across the Commonwealth - not least in a now seemingly reluctant Britain?

Yours etc,




5 November