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Departments: Arabic

Volume 463: debated on Thursday 19 July 2007

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs how many and what proportion of his Department's staff held an Arabic language qualification in each year since 2000. (150554)

There are 230 Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) staff with an Arabic language qualification at various levels recorded on the FCO management information system. This is around 6 per cent. of the total number of diplomatic service staff. The figure does not include staff employed locally. Using success in the internal FCO Arabic exam at Operational or Extensive level as a measure of fluency, 70 staff acquired fluency in Arabic between 2000 and 2006. Other staff serving in Arabic-speaking posts will have retained fluency from previous use of the language. Five staff will complete Arabic Operational training in 2007 and a further 14 in 2008. We would expect the overall number of Arabic speakers in the diplomatic service to increase as we continue to train staff and target hard language skills, including Arabic, at recruitment and inward transfer. We will also be encouraging staff to return to the region to reuse existing language skills.

In order to provide a year on year breakdown of language qualifications we would need to extract both the start and end dates of the qualification. This information was not mandatory on the previous management information system and any breakdown would not provide a true reflection of the total number of staff that held the qualification.