Examination of Witnesses (Questions 200
TUESDAY 16 JULY 2002
JAY KCMG, MR
CMG, MR SIMON
GASS CMG AND
200. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office have
devised a Charter for the Management of Staff Overseas, which
has been disseminated to all posts. Have overseas posts received
training on the implications of the Charter, and how do you ensure
that posts are treating locally engaged staff in accordance with
(Mr Charlton) The importance of local staff is obvious
when you look at our numbers and all our posts would agree with
that. Where they will need training they will certainly ask for
it. I think they are well experienced in dealing with local staff
and well understand the importance from London. We do offer now
more and more training courses for local staff. Some of those
are for managers too. In fact, I went to one ten days ago which
was a regional course for local staff and managers of people,
so the idea of management of local staff is becoming more and
201. One case came to our attention after the
Committee had visited St Petersburg a few years ago and a couple
of years down the line led to an expatriate member of staff in
the St Petersburg post trying to seek redress for what he believed
was unfair dismissal. Because he was an expatriate grade he could
not access the legal system in Russia to pursue his case, and
his application to go before a tribunal in this country was dismissed
on the basis that he was not resident in this country, presumably.
It just occurred to me that it must be a small percentage of locally
engaged staff who are expatriates. Is there any employment protection
for staff in that position who are living abroad?
(Sir Michael Jay) There are in fact quite a lot of
local staff who are expatriate in some parts of the world. In
the United States, for example, a large number of local staff
are expatriate. The general principle on which we operate is that
they are governed by the terms and conditions of service of the
employment law in the country in which they are serving, but I
take notice of the question. I do not know the answer to the question
as to whether a member of staff is as it were falling in between
two judicial systems and cannot seek redress. It is a position
we should look at maybe.
(Mr Collecott) I think we should look at that. I am
familiar with the case. I had forgotten that he was actually not
able to seek redress in Russia and I cannot remember therefore
what the circumstances precisely of that were. Maybe we should
look into it and let you know.
Sir John Stanley
202. You will be letting us have a note on that?
(Sir Michael Jay) Yes.
One or two other points on local staff, if I may, going back to
what I said before the Committee on Standards in Public Life.
I may not have got the figure completely right, but the latest
one I see is 8,800, I think. The substantial number of local staff
that we have around the world are in the front line of almost
everything we doour consular work, our visa work, our commercial
work, our public diplomacy work, and increasingly in one or two
places around the world some political work as well. I do not
think in the past that we have paid enough attention to their
management. We are now trying to pay more attention to their management.
We have set up a local staff unit within the Personnel Directorate
in London which I think is a good development. A member of the
local staff that I met recently in The Hague suggested that it
would be a good idea if a locally engaged member of staff were
part of that unit. I think that is an excellent idea and we are
trying to put that into place now. We are also trying to break
down the barriers between local staff and home based staff which
have been too pronounced in some parts of the world. It is easier
in some parts of the world than in others. I also, if I can say
this in a tiny moment of self-flagellation, do not think there
is enough in the report about our local staff and I would like
to offer more about the importance and numbers of our local staff
in the report next year. I think there needs to be more.
203. Sir Michael, I would like to ask you personally
on a question which bears particularly on you as the Permanent
Under-Secretary. As you will recall, earlier this year our ambassador
in Romania was placed in a very invidious position, having submitted
a letter for the Prime Minister's signature in support of a contract
which was being sought by a British company, and the British company
in question happened to be a company that had given funds to the
government party of the day. Such letters written by ministers
have been written under successive governments and I myself regard
it as a perfectly proper and indeed a necessary part of any government's
determination to try to strengthen the hand of British exporters
round the world. It will inescapably from time to time follow
that when such letters are written it turns out that the company
on whose behalf the letter has been written will have given a
financial contribution to the governing party of the day. I hope
you will agree that the position in which our ambassador in Romania
was placed was really quite unacceptable in terms of the comment
that was made in the media and comments that were made casting
doubts as to his party political impartiality and there were a
number of, I thought, clearly unnecessary and intrusive comments
in relation to his personal life. I would like to ask you as the
Permanent Secretary what steps you have taken to ensure that our
ambassadors and high commissioners round the world are not in
the future placed in the same position as our ambassador was in
Romania, when they are perfectly properly asked by the government
of the day to provide a draft of a letter in support of a British
export contract to a company which may or may not be one that
is supporting financially the government of the day.
(Sir Michael Jay) I agree with what you say about
the ambassador in question, Chairman, and I spoke to him over
that period and told him that in my judgement he had behaved entirely
properly in supporting British interests in the way that he did.
What I then did afterwards was to send a note round to all our
ambassadors outlining some of the lessons from that particular
episode and drawing attention in particular to the question of
what is a British company and so on, which is one of the issues
which was at the heart of this. The short answer to your question
is that I see it as my duty to support any ambassador who finds
himself in a difficult position of that kind and that is certainly
what I did and what the Foreign Secretary did in this case.
204. I would like to ask you whether that is
actually sufficient because unless you as Permanent Secretary
issue some clear statement of guidelines to your ambassadors and
high commissioners to cover this eventuality, guidelines which
of themselves would then enable any ambassador or high commissioner
placed in this position to say, "I was simply following the
established guidelines laid down by the Permanent Secretary",
then it is I fear only a matter of time before another ambassador
or another high commissioner is going to be placed in the same
invidious position. I would suggest to you that it is not good
enough to say, "The Permanent Secretary will be behind you
if you get into the same sort of position that our Ambassador
in Romania got into through no fault of his own".
(Sir Michael Jay) In the immediate aftermath of that
we did send guidelines to our ambassadors on this question of
the support that they should be giving to British companies and
since then we have been in touch with David Wright, the head of
British Trade International, to ensure that there are clear guidelines
to be issued to people.
205. I would be grateful if you could provide
the Committee with a copy of your guidance telegram. You referred
to guidelines that are to be issued. Have those guidelines been
issued to date?
(Sir Michael Jay) I will have to check on whether
they have been issued or not. I will look into this question when
I get back.
206. We would certainly wish to have a copy
of those guidelines, if they have been issued or as and when they
are issued, please.
(Sir Michael Jay) I will look into the question of
whether they have been issued.
Sir John Stanley: And the Committee would wish
to have a copy of those guidelines when they are issued.
Mr Chidgey: I have one more question on the
Overseas Territories. This relates again, Sir Michael, to the
speed of response to written questions which obviously fall to
you and your staff to provide the information on. I put down a
series for answer at the beginning of July on the Overseas Territories
regarding the preparation of annual financial abstracts. I asked
very simple questions: which of our Overseas Territories prepare
annual financial abstracts and which do not; has the Foreign Office
been in discussion or correspondence with any of our Overseas
Territories in regard to their financial abstracts and, if so,
which of our Overseas Territories has the Foreign and Commonwealth
Office had a reply from and which is it still awaiting a satisfactory
reply from. They are very straightforward questions, nothing particularly
difficult. I have been given the holding answer of, "We will
reply as soon possible", but I do not see what the problem
is. There are only so many Overseas Territories. The correspondence
that you have with them must be fairly up front. You know there
is no great file of information. I do not understand why it is
difficult to answer the questions.
Mr Mackinlay: And you are more or less
Sir John Stanley: Sorry; let Sir Michael answer
Mr Chidgey and then you can come in.
207. My adviser here is working very well. We
hunt in pairs.
(Sir Michael Jay) I will need to look into the question,
208. Do you take my point? This is not exactly
(Sir Michael Jay) I will look into it.
209. Can I say finally, Sir John, can I have
some lead from you because, as you were discussing with my colleague
here earlier, I think the Committee has an interest in this difficulty
we are having in getting responses to questions which are germane
to the work of the Committee. Again, as you have suggested with
Mr Mackinlay to have some sort of response today, I think it would
be appropriate if I could have some sort of response for the Committee
in the same sort of timescale.
(Sir Michael Jay) I can promise you a follow-up of
some sort during the course of the afternoon. I am afraid I cannot
without looking into the details promise you a substantial reply.
If the request was for a substantive reply to the points today,
I cannot promise you that because I will have to look into where
we have got to and how complicated it is. I can certainly promise
you as it were an update or a sitrep by the end of the day.
210. But not a holding answer on a holding answer,
(Sir Michael Jay) I will have to look into the substance
of it all.
Sir John Stanley: Sir Michael, we would be grateful
for any help you can give, but also we are conscious that when
it comes to individual questions which Members have tabled, then
it is for Members to pursue the relevant ministerial office.
211. Yes, but if I had not asked those questions
we could be asking you this morning and it is a matter on the
record that Mr Straw said these should be available. In fact,
he said he was gobsmacked that these were not available. The $64,000
question today is, are these documents in existence in London?
That is something we need to know and I cannot for the life of
me find out why that cannot be established. The spin-off of this
issue is in fact a response to some questions on advice to ministers
because presumably, when somebodyJones, Carter-Brown or
someone or othersays, "Minister, I have put in your
Red Box the statistics but we cannot find Gibraltar's", that
must have happened, and he says, "Thanks very much".
Where did Mr Straw get this from, about Gibraltar not having these
statistics? Presumably the person who put him up to this might
be in Brussels, and presumably then did not advise him that the
other Overseas Territories, for which you have greater responsibility
when it comes to some of the territories where there is not devolved
self-governmentit really is a cover-up, I have got to say
to you, a shocking cover-up. And there is a parliamentary recess
coming up and I am not going to tolerate it.
(Sir Michael Jay) I undertake, as I did earlier on,
Chairman, to look into this when I get back to the office.
Sir John Stanley
212. Sir Michael, we are very grateful to you
and to your colleagues, and we would also be grateful if you would
convey the thanks of the Committee to the very considerable number
of your staff who must have devoted a great deal of time to producing
the latest annual version of your report which has been of great
value to this Committee and I am sure to the wider public. We
hope it has also been of value to your Department in compiling
it. Thank you very much.
(Sir Michael Jay) Thank you, Chairman. May I say that
it is a pleasure to be before the Committee in the more formal
capacity than has been the case in the past but I do see it as
very important during my present job to work very closely with
your Committee. You travel widely. You see many of our posts at
first hand and have a perspective on the operation which is very
valuable to us and I look forward to developing that relationship
while I am in this job.
Sir John Stanley: Thank you, Sir Michael.
16 Ev 83. Back