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United States

Volume 406: debated on Thursday 12 June 2003

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To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what representations he has received regarding the proposed sale of the consular residence in Pacific Avenue, San Francisco; and if he will make a statement. [118638]

Since 1999 my colleagues and I have replied to eight letters from hon. Friends and hon. Members on this subject. Three were from my hon. Friend the Member for Sittingbourne and Sheppey (Mr. Derek Wyatt). We have also replied to seven written Questions from him. He submitted an Early Day Motion in April and I discussed the matter personally with him on 7 May.Some of the letters from hon. Friends and Members were prompted by representations from the British American Chamber of Commerce (Northern California Branch) who have also written to me direct and to other Ministers. The President of the British-American Business Council has also expressed his views, as has the Mayor of San Francisco.These representations have left us in no doubt that the Pacific Heights house is much appreciated by the local British community. After reading through the relevant papers I have nevertheless concluded that the sale should go ahead. It is an important element in our programme of "asset recycling", aimed at improving value for money and modernising our estate. After meeting the cost of a new Residence, the sale will yield capital funds that the FCO can re-invest in additional facilities elsewhere. I believe that the new Residence, which is closer to the normal size guidelines, will prove operationally effective while costing far less to own and run.