To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assessment he has made of the value of the Consul General's house in San Francisco; and what economic calculations he used to make his assessment. 
Replacement of the present over-scale Residence of the Consul General in San Francisco will make a net contribution to FCO finances and reduce the annual resource charge we pay to the Treasury for the property by half. The decision was based on the usual value for money criteria discounted back to net present value and informed by the reports of our local property agents on prospects for the San Francisco market. It was never our intention that the new Residence should provide for entertainment on the same scale as the old. Comparisons based on the presumed extra cost incurred by moving to a smaller Residence are therefore unnecessary. I am satisfied that this is a good deal for the taxpayer.
To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs whether ministerial authority was given for the deposit placed on a replacement residence for the Consul General in San Francisco. 
[holding answer 3 June 2003]: FCO procedures do not call for specific Ministerial authority before purchasing individual properties. The more important cases, under normal delegations, would be submitted to the Permanent Under Secretary (PUS). The PUS may then decide to refer this matter to Ministers. In this case we were operating within a strategy which has been approved by the previous PUS, having discussed the matter with Ministers in 2001. and which had been endorsed by the present PUS, having visited the property in 2002.