Foreign and Commonwealth Office Annual Report 2007-08 - Foreign Affairs Committee Contents

Letter to the Committee Specialist from the Head, Parliamentary Relations Team, Foreign and Commonwealth Office

  Thank you for your letter of 8 December. Our response to your follow-up queries relating to the FCO's Departmental Report 2007-08 is as follows:


(a)  Could you explain how the FCO takes decisions on deploying staff, and how they assess whether Posts are over-staffed or under-staffed?

  Staffing levels and job grading have been devolved to Directors General and Directors who operate devolved pay budgets. There are no external or internal limits on FCO headcount. Numbers are controlled by budget alone.

  Decisions about the allocation of resources (including funding for staff) to Departmental Strategic Objectives are taken by the FCO Board of Management, in consultation with Minsters where appropriate, on the basis of bids by Directors. Directors decide where they need to base staff in order to deliver their geographical or thematic objectives. We then move staff to match those priorities.

(b)  The FCO's Quarterly Management Letter of 28 April 2008 states that 40 new diplomatic and 70 new locally engaged staff positions will be created "across the FCO network to build the relationships that will be needed to exercise real influence on the climate change debate throughout the world."

  Where will these posts be located, will the post holders work exclusively on climate change and what grades will the posts be?

  In accordance with the FCO's new strategic framework, we have increased the number of staff working to deliver climate change and energy objectives. This has led to the creation of 19 positions in London, 32.5 new overseas diplomatic positions and 73 new locally engaged staff positions. The distribution of the new staff is in line with the FCO's priority countries for climate change. These are: Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Poland, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Turkey, and the USA. The newly recruited staff are located in: Caracas, Bogota, Lima, Brasilia, Vancouver, Ottawa, Santiago, Mexico City, Buenos Aires, La Paz, Washington and across the US network, New Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Chennai, Moscow, St Petersburg, Beijing and across the China network, Jakarta, Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Bangkok, Manila, Tokyo, Seoul, Pretoria, Cape Town, Berlin, Rome, and Warsaw. UK-based diplomats have been recruited at grades SMS, D6 and C4 (corresponding to Counsellors, First Secretaries and Second Secretaries when in overseas posts.) LE staff have been recruited at grades LEI-LEIII. The newly recruited staff has a range of responsibilities which vary depending on the climate change and energy priorities of the mission in which they are based. These priorities are set out in each mission's business plan.


How will the transfer of responsibility for drugs and crime from the FCO to SOCA and the Home Office impact on the FCO's work at the UN's Office on Drugs and Crime in Vienna?

  As we made clear at the time of last year's Strategy Refresh, the FCO recognises the importance of HMG's work on drugs and crime issues to the UK. We remain engaged under Departmental Strategic Objective 1 (a flexible global network serving the whole of the British Government) even though the policy lead has passed to the Home Office. The UK Mission to the UN in Vienna devotes a significant part of its effort to working with UNODC. The UK continues to make substantial extra-budgetary contributions to UNODC programmes in the field, both bilaterally and via the European Commission, which is one of UNODC's largest donors. In 2008 to date, the UK has contributed $4.3 million, $3.8 million from the FCO, making it the seventh largest donor.

  The UK is also:

    —  doing more work than before with UNODC on harm reduction in the HIV/AIDS context and on corruption, with DfID's funding of a new expert slot in the UK Mission to steward these issues;

    —  increasing our activism on UNODC issues in Vienna in assuming the Chairmanship of the UNODC Major Donors Group. This enables us to play a leading strategic role in guiding and redefining the work of the Group in such a way that it stimulates the UNODC Secretariat to higher standards of delivery, more strategic coherence in its development of thematic and regional programmes, and more transparency and responsiveness in its work with its biggest funders; and

    —  taking over the Vice Chair of the Commission on Crime Prevention & Criminal Justice, giving us even more visibility and impact with UNODC.


In our last Report, the Committee commented (paragraph 102, "Foreign and Commonwealth Office Annual Report 2006-07") on the FCO's progress in professionalising its top financial management. What progress has been made in this respect since the Committee's last report was published?

  Work on professionalising top and middle financial management in the FCO has continued to progress. IPF Consultancy, the consulting arm of CIPFA, recently conducted an independent review of the FCO's financial management using its CIPFA financial management model. The review concluded that there had been a strong improvement over the last two years from a low base, that our performance relative to other Departments was commendable and that we were well-placed to improve our skills and professionalism. The following developments have occurred since the last FAC report.

  Tim Gardner, a qualified Management Accountant who had previously headed the Five Star Finance Programme in the FCO, took up his post as Finance Director on 1 January 2008. Tim was previously a Director of a large consultancy and has held similar finance positions with a number of commercial organisations.

  Senior Management Staff (SMS) and Band D staff are required to undertake the Professional Skills for Government (PSG) finance e-learning and two-day Financial Management course. To date 70% of SMS and Band D staff have attended the course.

  We are taking forward in-house financial training. In the New Year we will introduce tailored individual finance training for directors. We will launch a Finance in the FCO course aimed at the generalist level. We will also roll out a budgeting course, which will be mandatory for all budget holders in the FCO.

  The first intake of graduate entrant accountancy trainees recruited through the Government Finance Profession (GFP) scheme joined the FCO on 1 September 2008. The trainees will undertake a series of placements in the FCO finance community during their training. We plan to recruit at least five more GFP trainees in 2009. The aim is for the FCO to "grow its own" accountants who will be equipped to occupy senior management positions in the future.

  The FCO also participates in two Whitehall-wide programmes designed to increase the financial acumen of current and future senior civil servants. The Accelerated Programme provides a fast track to a professional accountancy qualification for SMS staff. Jonathan Knott, formerly Head of Financial Planning and Performance Department and now Deputy Head of Mission in Seoul, was the FCO's first "graduate" from the programme in December 2007. Under the Fast Stream Finance Option, we have three policy entrants studying for a professional accountancy qualification while pursuing a generalist FCO career overseas.

  Since November 2007 we have offered two one-year financial qualifications (ACCA Diploma in Financial Management and CIMA Certificate in Business Accounting) to generalist middle-management staff wanting to enhance their financial management skills.


(a)  A letter from the Foreign Secretary to the Committee, dated 8 March 2008, included the following statement: "The Schemes have had real strengths. But we need to refocus them to ensure that these strengths are consistent. We will maintain a global scheme, but we will focus scholarships particularly on those countries such as China and India which are going to be most important to our foreign policy success over coming years."

  The Committee would be grateful to receive clarification as to whether the "focus" referred to in the extract above will result in a reduction in the number of scholarships available to applicants in other countries and if so, which countries and applicants will be affected and to what extent.

  As the Foreign Secretary also said in his letter of 11 March, we proposed a smaller FCO scholarships programme, saving some £10 million a year for new activity on our new policy goals, mainly climate change. In his further letter of 30 May he showed that the budget for the Chevening programme (scholarships and Fellowships) was reduced from £32,289,000 in 2007-08 to £23,660,000 in 2008-09. We reduced the number of Chevening Scholarships for all countries proportionately except those that were already in receipt of only one or two awards, because we want Chevening to remain a global scheme. But we have also retained our focus on our priority countries. The top 15 countries (China, India, Indonesia, Brazil, Russia, Egypt, Nigeria, Pakistan, Iraq, Turkey, Mexico, Malaysia, Iran, South Africa and Hong Kong) received nearly 35% of the available budget for new scholarships this year. And we still have nearly 1,000 Chevening scholars this year, compared with 1,370 in 2007-08.

(b)  The same letter of 8 March 2008 stated: "These changes will free up some £10 million a year for new activity on our new policy goals."

  The Committee would be grateful for clarification as to what "these changes" specifically refer to.

  The changes are the reduction in the Chevening Scholarships Scheme and the ending of the FCO contribution to the Commonwealth Scholarship and Fellowship Plan after 2008-09, except for the continuing cost of scholars on two or three-year courses.

(c)  Further to the memorandum from Sir Peter Ricketts, dated 20 November 2008, the Committee would be grateful for additional information on FCO funding for Chevening Scholarships, Chevening Fellowships, Commonwealth Scholarships and the Marshall Scheme.

  The Committee would like to know:

    —  How much did the FCO spend in each of the last three financial years on each of the programmes listed above, and

    —  What is the projected FCO spend on each of the schemes listed above for the next three financial years.

  You asked how much the FCO spent on Chevening scholarships, Chevening Fellowships, Commonwealth scholarships and Marshall scholarships in each of the last three years. The figures for the Chevening programme exclude the management fee to the British Council, other administrative expenditure on the new website, e-Chevening online scholarship application system etc, scholar receptions and homestays for Chevening scholars and Fellows through HOST UK. The Chevening alumni project fund is a new fund, started in 2006-07 on a trial basis, to stimulate engagement with Chevening alumni associations. The figures for Commonwealth and Marshall Scholarships are as given in the Foreign Secretary's letter of 30 May.

Financial year
Chevening scholarships
Chevening Fellowships
Chevening alumni project fund
Commonwealth scholarships
Marshall scholarships

Not established

  You also asked about projected expenditure on each scheme for the next three years. It is as follows:

Financial year
Chevening scholarships
Chevening Fellowships
Chevening alumni project fund
Commonwealth scholarships
Marshall scholarships

£1,050,000 estimate
Not yet decided
Not yet decided
Not yet decided
£400,000 estimate
Not yet decided

  The Department for International Development has increased its funding for the Commonwealth Scholarship and Fellowship Plan (CSFP) by £1 million this year to £15.93 million and will increase it further to £17.43 million in 2009-10 and £17.5 million in 2010-11. This is for developing Commonwealth countries. The Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills will give the CSFP £400,000 in 2009-10 and again in 2010-11 for three-year doctoral awards for developed Commonwealth countries.

15 December 2008

previous page contents next page

House of Commons home page Parliament home page House of Lords home page search page enquiries index

© Parliamentary copyright 2009
Prepared 8 February 2009