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Embassies And Missions (Scientific And Technological Staff)

Volume 722: debated on Tuesday 21 December 1965

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Q8.

asked the Prime Minister if he will transfer to the Ministry of Technology the scientific and engineering attaches and diplomatic service officers with scientific and technological qualifications in British embassies and missions abroad, who are at present attached to the Foreign Office.

No, Sir. There would be no advantage over present arrangements in doing so.

Is the Prime Minister aware that there is a great need for strengthening the scientific and technological staffs of our embassies overseas? Will he again look at the possibility of transferring this responsibility to the Minister of Technology, who is in close contact with industry, so that he can deal with training and selection?

This was dealt with in the Plowden Report, and I think the recommendation was right that the diplomatic service should be unified and everyone abroad should be under the control of an ambassador. We have the most distinguished scientists, technologists, atomic specialists, and so on in these embassies, and I met two of them in Washington last week. It is right that they should be on the foreign service staff while they are there, with the closest link with the Ministry of Technology, and where necessary with the Department of Education and Science.

While recognising the need for scientific attaches to be on the staff of an embassy, may I ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he can tell us how the relationship between the Minister of Technology and the Secretary of State for Education and Science operates as regards those attaches who are of considerable interest to both Departments?

This is very often the case with other attaches and consuls who have specialised functions, but where it is a question of atomic energy matters, and responsibility for the A.E.A., some of those who are seconded from the A.E.A. have direct contact with the A.E.A. and with the Ministry of Technology. Where there are questions of pure science, which the right hon. and learned Gentleman knows all about, the contact in London is with the Department of Education and Science.

Is the Prime Minister aware that considerable anxiety has been expressed by——

Order. The Prime Minister has not answered the hon. Lady's Question. I called her to ask Question No. 10.

I am sorry, Mr. Speaker. I thought that you were calling me to ask a supplementary question.