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Overseas Representation

Volume 932: debated on Tuesday 17 May 1977

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asked the Prime Minister whether he has received the report of the CPRS on overseas representation.

The report is still in draft. I expect to receive it shortly.

When my right hon. Friend receives the report, will he give an assurance that, whatever response he makes to the rumoured recommendation that we should streamline our overseas representation, he will resist any recommendations to reduce the BBC Overseas Service, which many believe to be a most effective means of transmitting Britain's point of view and which is also most helpful in giving impartial information to those who are living under régimes where censorship of the news is a practice?

I have not yet seen the report and, therefore, I am not aware whether it contains any recommendations of that nature. I would say to my hon. Friend that from my previous experience as Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary I know that the Overseas Service of the BBC is very much valued and is listened to by a variety of overseas leaders in other countries. We should therefore have to give serious consideration before it was cut down.

Is the Prime Minister aware that rumour has it that the report criticises the cut-back in the British Overseas Trade Board's activities? Does he not agree that it makes nonsense to cut back this service if, as he has stated in the House, exports are a priority?

Again, I must say that these are rumours and that I do not know what the report contains. It would be better to read it and see what case is made, if any is made, about the overseas trade service and its future.

Will my right hon. Friend mind if I twist the Question and link it to Question No. Q1 and ask—

Order. Only last week the House asked me to see that supplementary questions were relevant to the Question on the Order Paper.

This is relevant, Mr. Speaker. Has my right hon. Friend received representations from overseas people that, maybe when he goes home at night to his home and his wife, he should route himself via the Phipps Ward of the South-Western Hospital and see there what can be done for disabled persons from overseas?

That is a blatant example of where the House has asked me to see that questions are relevant.