Examination of witness (Questions 48-59)|
TUESDAY 24 APRIL 2001
48. Professor Reich, may I welcome you to the
Committee. We understand you have only arrived back from the States
(Professor Reich) Yes, so you will have
to forgive me all my sins.
49. You have some mitigation in terms of jetlag.
You are here as the Director of Research at Chatham House. You
are on leave from your post as professor at the University of
Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public International Affairs and
the Department of Political Science. What is particularly relevant
for us as we prepare for the meeting with Sir John Kerr is to
have the view of someone who is outside our system in the Burns
way, who is able to help us see ourselves as others see us. So
it would be helpful if you could very briefly begin by saying
how you view our Foreign Office, its strengths, its weaknesses,
and we will take it up from there.
(Professor Reich) First of all, I would like to state
for the record that the comments I make are representative of
my views alone, not representative of the institution.
50. We understand.
(Professor Reich) You have already pointed out but
I will say by way of context that my view I think is a fairly
dispassionate one. I was born here, I grew up in this country,
I have lived abroad for 20 years, I have now been back for the
best part of a year, I will be departing fairly soon, so I think
this places me in a fairly unique position. I would, first of
all, ground any comments I make in the context of saying I think
the overall report which is the basis for this assessment points
to the comprehensive nature of the work that the Foreign Office
does, there are some areas in which it does that work very well.
So any critical comments I make or any comments I make in general
should be seen in that light. I think there are a couple of organisational
points, perhaps budgetary points, and a few more general ones
to which I would like briefly to allude and I will of course elaborate
in questions. The first is, as you see the focus of the Foreign
Office more broadly, you get a sense of part of the machinery
of government which stresses a very broad and traditional role
for diplomacy, and I notice, for example, that there are exceptions
to this such as the BTI, but in general the stress seems to be
much more on the work in budgetary terms of the British Council,
the export of democracy and Britain playing a rather broad, significant
and, in a sense (and I use the word somewhat hesitatingly) a grand
role in world affairs. This is stressed, for example, in the report's
allusion to the special relationship with the United States, our
traditional transatlantic links. I wonder aloud whether this is
perhaps misplaced in the context of the new millennium, that in
fact this does not necessarily represent what may be an accurate
role for Britain at this time. Certainly what is under-played
I think in the activities of the Foreign Office in general is
its role in commercial diplomacy, that the BTI while playing a
role is not necessarily best equipped to pursue that role in its
present structure and should probably be bolstered. Likewise there
is allusion made to the role of the FCO in terms of encouraging
inward and outward foreign investment but it is a relatively non-strategic
type of role. My own research and my own experience has been on
foreign investment that while Britain has been a recipient of
much foreign investment, the bulk within the EUthe largest
recipient in the EUit has not used that particularly strategically
well in my assessment. It seems to me there are a series of issues
around which you say, "The British Council takes a large
proportion of the budget" and there are questions about how
much utility is derived from that in tangible terms, yet there
are other areas you can point to as being strategically clearly
in the interests of Britain commercially that seem to be relatively
under-represented in the budget. The allusion that we often have
is of Britain as a pivotal global power, as is discussed and is
quoted, with its membership of the five major multilateral institutions,
et cetera, et cetera. I am not sure I would argue that that is
the best posture that a government might take in terms of serving
the interests of Britain and its population and even broader global
communities at this time. The sense we have perhaps that we are
a more truncated version of a super power is one that perhaps
defies Britain's strategic role and its resource capabilities
at this time. So while I appreciate the Foreign Office makes a
significant contribution to Britain's welfare and I would not
want to have my comments be seen in any other light, I think there
is a reasonable question about emphasis, a reasonable question
about what the most important aspects are as reflected in things
like the budget, reflected in ways in which it organises its strategic
goals, that this Committee might want to contemplate and challenge.
51. Are you essentially saying we should focus
more narrowly on interests in terms of our trade interests and
sloughing offyou use the word allusion, sometimes illusionthe
quasi-great power status?
(Professor Reich) What I would say is I think those
two things are not incompatible. What I question perhaps is the
areas where we play a role as a global citizen and where our capacity
to do so is truncated and therefore we are using valuable resources
to no obvious end or no obvious effective end.
52. Where would you make the economies then
in manpower or in physical assets?
(Professor Reich) I think it is hard to justify the
proportion of the budget spent on the British Council. I understand
the importance of the promotion of democracy more broadly, of
capitalism more generally, I just do not know that this is the
most effective way to do that.
53. You will clearly know the US comparables
in terms of personnel. Do you have any particular views to tell
the Committee about the quality or training of the Foreign Service
(Professor Reich) I have had some contact and any
evidence I provide would only be anecdotal. The people I have
worked with in the Foreign Office are very well trained, very
well informed and very smart, and I have no questions or qualms
about that. In the United States I spend much of my time training
people who are the future Foreign Service officers, so I do have
a sense of that. FCO personnel are very smart, but they are not
technically necessarily trained as well relative to their American
54. Deployment of those personnel?
(Professor Reich) I am not capable of evaluating that.
That would be inappropriate.
55. In your initial remarks you queried the
(Professor Reich) Yes.
56. In the actual Annual Report the Government
makes a case on three points. One: "our vital national interests
coincide as much now as ever in the past". Do you think that
is no longer true?
(Professor Reich) I think that is no longer true.
57. Can you give me a specific example or illustration
of where our interests do not coincide?
(Professor Reich) The Summit of the Americas yesterday
would be an example where it is quite clear that the United States
sees its immediate interest in the liberalisation of hemispheric
relations. That really leaves Britain out in the cold.
58. Yes. Is Europe out in the cold.
(Professor Reich) Britain, as I hesitatingly say,
is part of Europe.
(Professor Reich) If I may characterise it this way.
I would say that transatlantic relations have at different points
in its history had a coincidence of interest but they have been
based on different things. Let us just take the post war period,
say the second half of the twentieth century, first of all, obviously
you had war, and you had a common adversary, then you had a period
of institution building, Britain went to NATO where our interests
coincided. Then you had a period where you had individuals who
shared something in common. Then you had a period of say ideological
concurrence where you had political leadership which shared something
in common. I would argue that none of those characteristics are