I wish to update the House on recent changes to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s overseas network. As I said in the House on 11 May 2011, there will be no strategic shrinkage of Britain’s diplomatic influence overseas. I made it clear in a speech in London on 8 September that I intend to strengthen the long term capability and international effectiveness of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, and to improve our country’s capacity to pursue effective foreign policy for years and even decades to come.
So I am pleased to confirm to Parliament the opening in 2012 of a British consulate-general in Calgary, as announced by the Prime Minister during his visit to Canada on 22 September. The new consulate-general will maintain our existing UK trade and investment operation in Calgary, while adding significant new capability for pursuing our wider political and environmental interests within this dynamic province. This measure underscores my determination to extend the UK’s global reach and strengthen our influence in the world. It also supports my commitment to deepen and refresh our relationship with Canada, an important ally and long-standing friend of the UK. I intend to appoint a fully accredited, resident British consul-general to take up position from summer 2012.
The province of Alberta is Canada’s third largest internal economy, and has led Canadian growth for 20 years. This growth is fuelling commercial opportunities across a diverse range of sectors, including telecoms, agrifood, biotech, chemicals, electronics, energy and corporate services. British companies are heavily involved in the automotive sector, financial services, creative media, chemicals, advanced engineering, IT, and healthcare, as well as in energy and power. Some 50 Albertan companies have UK investments. Opening a consulate-general will add value to our existing trade and investment operations in support of British commercial interests.
The Foreign and Commonwealth Office will meet the cost of appointing and maintaining a resident British consul-general in Calgary through the reallocation of existing resources and without any detrimental impact on front-line activities.
Arrangements for UK visas and consular services in the region are unaltered. Our consulate-general in Vancouver will continue to provide a consular service in the region, including for Alberta.
The strength of our embassy network is a signal to the world of our engagement and commitment to international peace and security. Through strengthening and in some places by expanding Britain’s diplomatic network beyond Europe, we will ensure that the UK has the necessary reach and capacity to respond quickly and effectively when British companies need our assistance or British nationals are in danger. The extension and strengthening of our global diplomatic network, with staff who have the necessary abilities and diplomatic skills, are key objectives of this Government and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office have made funding these goals a priority.