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British Council Restructuring Costs: Government Assistance

Volume 572: debated on Tuesday 21 May 1996

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asked Her Majesty's Government:What assistance they propose to make available to the British Council to help with its restructuring costs and to avoid overseas post closures.

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office
(Baroness Chalker of Wallasey)

I have today written to the chairman of the British Council informing him that my department is prepared to meet 80 per cent. of the actual costs of redundancies among its grant-in-aid funded UK appointed staff this financial year. I propose to finance this from the ODA's contingency reserve. Since this reserve is higher than originally planned this can be accommodated without affecting our ability to respond to foreseeable emergencies or reducing planned aid programmes. That part of the funding which serves aid objectives will be provided directly through the ODA Vote. For the balance, I will be seeking parliamentary authority later this year to make the appropriate transfer between the ODA and the British Council Votes.In my letter to the chairman I have also assured him that an additional £5 million in 1997–98 and £9 million in 1998–99 will be made available to the council from within my departmental programme in order to avoid closures of British Council offices overseas, to help sustain their programmes in priority countries and to contribute towards their continuing redundancy costs.The British Council will of course be continuing with its existing programme of efficiency savings.