The House is aware that I have been conducting a full review of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s spending on programmes. I refer to the reply given by the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, my hon. Friend the Member for North East Bedfordshire (Alistair Burt) to the hon. Member for North Durham (Mr Jones) on 7 June 2010, Official Report, Column 24W.
My aim was threefold: to ensure that FCO programmes deliver the priorities of the new Government; to ensure that they focus on those areas where the FCO itself can make the biggest difference and offer the best possible value for money; and to establish where the FCO can make cuts as part of its contribution to the reduction in public expenditure to which this Government are committed.
I have decided that we will:
Sustain planned spending this financial year on our counter-terrorism and Afghan counter-narcotics programmes, which contribute to some of the UK’s most important priorities, and will seek (resources permitting) to maintain FCO programme funding on these issues in future years.
Sustain planned spending this financial year on our bilateral programme funds, which enhance our relationships and influence with key countries around the world, and will seek (resources permitting) to increase this funding in future years.
Maintain a substantial programme of scholarships to bring future decision-takers and opinion-formers to the UK, while professionalising our current arrangements and targeting them on a smaller group of people. We will cut this year’s programme by £10 million and seek (resources permitting) to sustain a smaller and more strategic programme in future years. I believe this programme should also attract some further external funding, which will now be explored.
Sustain in future years (resources permitting) the FCO’s programme spending in support of the overseas territories, while making a cut of 10% (£630,000) in spending this financial year.
Sustain in future years (resources permitting) the FCO’s programme spending in support of counter-proliferation, while making a cut of 10% (£300,000) in spending this financial year.
Sustain in future years (resources permitting) the FCO’s programmes on human rights and democracy, reuniting Europe, and in support of the Westminster Foundation For Democracy, while making cuts to these programmes this financial year of 10% each (cuts of £560,000; £380,000; and £380,000 respectively).
Cut the FCO’s spending on its low-carbon high-growth programme by around £3 million this financial year and explore alternative sources of funding for the programme for future years. This does not mean the FCO is ending work on these issues: our diplomats will remain fully engaged in the UK’s international efforts to promote a low-carbon high-growth economy.
Cut the FCO’s programme spending on drugs and crime by £l million this financial year, end FCO funding in future years, and explore alternative sources of funding for this programme. This does not mean the FCO is ending work on these issues: our diplomats will remain fully engaged in the UK’s international efforts to fight drugs and crime which threaten our shores.
Cut our public diplomacy programmes by £1.6 million this financial year, focusing on strategic communications to key overseas audiences, while seeking (resources permitting) to sustain this programme in future years.
Make some adjustments to FCO programme spending on international institutions, cutting £250,000 this financial year, while seeking (resources permitting) to sustain essential support to those institutions in future years.
These decisions will deliver over £18 million of savings this financial year out of total FCO programme spend of some £140 million. The money saved will help sustain the UK’s front-line diplomatic work and our global network of posts, and contribute to the FCO’s £55 million in-year cuts.
This is only a small part of the work I am leading to ensure that the FCO delivers the best possible service to the UK taxpayer at the lowest possible cost, and contributes to the Government’s goal of reducing the budget deficit. Where there is scope for further cuts, efficiencies and reforms to deliver better for Britain, we will make them.