Select Committee on Foreign Affairs Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence



Memorandum submitted by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office responding to the Committee's follow-up questions to its Report on the Annual Reports of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and British Trade International

  Thank you for your letter of 16 November in which you asked further questions following publication of the Government's Response to the Committee's Report on the Annual Reports of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and British Trade International. Our replies are as follows:

Question 1: recommendation 1

  We now have a new FCO Intranet, still (like its predecessor) based on extranet technology, and accessible to FCO staff through the Internet, carrying only unclassified information. But we plan a classified global Intranet, once the two main elements of our new global Information and Communications Technology Infrastructure are in use. There are:

    (a)  Firecrest, The roll-out of our new Windows-based office IT system has continued, now covering more than 1,750 users in the UK, and 7,500 users in 218 overseas posts. Coming months will see another 800 users in the UK, and the system upgraded to run at Confidential level, and become, by April 2001, the single main IT system across the FCO offices in London.

    (b)  FTN. On 10 May 2000 we signed a 10-year PFI contract with Global Crossing to provide a Global FCO Telecommunications Network. It is already in use in all Posts in North America (588 users), providing them with real-time communications with Whitehall, as well as Internet browsing. Deployment in Posts in Western Europe (1,555 users) should be completed during the first quarter of 2001. The first high capacity satellite connections into the network, from four Posts (one in Africa, one in Scandinavia, and two in the Middle East), should be in use before the end of the year.

Question 2: recommendation 15

  See Restricted Annex A[2]

Question 3: recommendation 24

  For commercial work, Heads of Mission agree specific objectives with British Trade International, on which they are assessed by its Group Chief Executive as part of the annual appraisal exercise. BTI assessments are then passed to FCO line-managers and incorporated in the overall appraisal marking used for performance pay purposes: the FCO and British Trade International agree on the importance of a single performance management chain. Heads of subordinate posts overseas are appraised by their Heads of Mission.

Question 4: recommendation 28

  I enclose, at Annex A[3], the full text of the agreed Memorandum of Understanding (and its Annexes), which has been finalised by BTI, DTI and FCO, in fulfilment of the Wilson report. The text, which has been noted by the BTI Board, is currently being considered by HM Treasury and the National Audit Office: a copy will in due course be placed in the Library of the House.[4]

Induction Courses for new Members of Parliament

  We are grateful for the Committee's suggestions on the proposed induction course for new Members of Parliament, and will take them into account in our planning for the course.

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