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Foreign and Commonwealth Office: Travel Advice

Volume 694: debated on Thursday 26 July 2007

My honourable friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Meg Munn) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

Travel advice is one of the most important public services which the Foreign and Commonwealth Office delivers. We provide travel advice notices for 218 countries and territories based on the most accurate and up-to-date information available to us. With the constant growth in international travel, more people are using FCO travel advice. In 2006, the FCO travel advice website received, on average, 150,000 visitors a week and our call centre handled 62,700 telephone inquiries over the course of the year.

Travel advice is designed to help British travellers to make informed decisions about travelling abroad and it is therefore kept under regular review to ensure that the information it provides remains of the highest quality.

Following feedback from British travellers and tour operators about travel advice, we have identified areas where we could improve the language we use to explain the nature of the terrorist threat. The principles of FCO travel advice, as agreed in the 2004 Review (Command Paper 6158) in relation to the threat from terrorism, remain unchanged. It will continue to draw on intelligence assessments, open source and media reporting, the local knowledge of our overseas posts and their diplomatic reporting. We are now introducing four generic threat descriptors, intended to clarify the scale of the terrorist threat to the travelling public. Drawing from our experience of what our customers need from travel advice, we consider that these descriptions are the most helpful to the travelling public given the innate difficulty of describing the threat from terrorism. The descriptors, as agreed with the travel industry and other stakeholders, are:

a high threat from terrorism” means a high level of known terrorist activity;

“a general threat from terrorism” means some level of known terrorist activity;

“an underlying threat from terrorism” means a low level of known terrorist activity; and

“a low threat from terrorism” means no or very limited known terrorist activity.

Our travel advice will continue to reflect the best judgments we can make at the time, though, as we have seen in the UK, it is possible for attacks to take place without prior warning. I believe that these changes will improve our travel advice to give effective information to help British travellers make informed decisions about their travel plans and personal security overseas.

My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Transport (Ruth Kelly) has made the following Ministerial Statement.

I am publishing today details of the number and cost to departments of the provision of allocated cars and drivers by the Government Car and Despatch Agency to Ministers during 2005-06 and 2006-07.

The figures for 2005-06 are:

Department

No. of Ministerial Cars

Contracted cost (£)

Notes

Cabinet Office

7

423,700

1

Department for Constitutional Affairs

5

293,400

Department for Culture, Media and Sport

4

265,200

Department for Education and Skills

7

428,900

Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

5

319,700

Foreign and Commonwealth Office

4

240,700

2

Department of Health

6

371,800

Home Office

7

436,400

Department for International Development

2

124,500

Office of the Deputy Prime Minister

6

383,400

Attorney-General’s Office

2

126,600

Northern Ireland Office

5

418,400

3

Privy Council Office

3

168,300

Scotland Office

1

58,900

4

Department of Trade and Industry

6

366,800

Department for Transport

4

256,100

5

HM Treasury

5

328,200

Wales Office

1

71,300

Department for Work and Pensions

6

390,700

Notes

(1) Cabinet Office figures include cars for Ministers in the Cabinet Office, the Prime Minister’s Office, the Chief Whip in the House of Commons and the Minister without Portfolio.

(2) The Minister of State for Trade, Investment and Foreign Affairs was a post held jointly between the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) and the Department for Trade and Industry. The Government Car Service (GCS) costs were met by the FCO.

(3) The right honourable Peter Hain MP was both Secretary of State for Northern Ireland and Secretary of State for Wales. GCS costs were met by the Northern Ireland Office.

(4) The GCS car and driver provided to the Scotland Office was shared by the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State and the Advocate-General.

(5) The right honourable Douglas Alexander MP was both Secretary of State for Transport and Secretary of State for Scotland. GCS costs were met by the Department for Transport.

The figures for 2006-07 are:

Department

No of Ministerial Cars

Annual Contracted cost (£)

Notes

Cabinet Office

8

531,700

1

Department for Constitutional Affairs

5

339,000

Department for Culture, Media and Sport

4

279,600

Department for Education and Skills

7

464,900

Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

5

323,300

Foreign and Commonwealth Office

5

324,500

2

Department of Health

6

387,100

Home Office

7

487,500

Department for International Development

2

132,200

ODPM/Department for Communities & Local Government

6

393,900

3

Attorney-General’s Office

2

133,900

Northern Ireland Office

5

434,400

4

Privy Council Office

3

204,100

Scotland Office

1

62,200

5

Department of Trade and Industry

5

312,200

6

Department for Transport

4

263,300

HM Treasury

5

346,700

Wales Office

1

74,600

Department for Work and Pensions

5

407,800

Notes

(1) Cabinet Office figures include cars for Ministers in the Cabinet Office, the Prime Minister’s Office, the Chief Whip in the House of Commons, the Minister without Portfolio and the Deputy Prime Minister (since May 2006).

(2) The Minister of State for Trade, Investment and Foreign Affairs was a post held jointly between the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) and the Department for Trade and Industry. The GCS costs were met by the FCO.

(3) Machinery of Government changes in May 2006 created the Department for Communities and Local Government and the Deputy Prime Minister's Office from The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister.

(4) The right honourable Peter Hain MP was both Secretary of State for Northern Ireland and Secretary of State for Wales. GCS costs were met by the Northern Ireland Office.

(5) The GCS car and driver provided to the Scotland Office was shared by the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State and the Advocate-General.

(6) The right honourable Douglas Alexander MP was both Secretary of State for Transport and Secretary of State for Scotland. GCS costs were met by the Department for Transport.