FCO in squeeze

Tight funding for the FCO risks jeopardising diplomacy overseasand could hamper efforts to improve security at embassies, according to a recent report by lawmakers.

The Foreign Affairs Select Committee criticised government spending plans, saying they provide inadequate funds for work overseas by British officials.

A current annual budget of £1.6 billion will increase by about £100 million by 2010, a decrease in real terms because of inflation, the committee of legislators said.

The spending plan is one of the tightest in Whitehall and “risks jeopardising the FCO’s important work,” the report said.

MPs are concerned that £183 million earmarked for security improvements is less than what officials requested.

“What happens when a British ambassador or consulate in the Middle East is blown up?” former ambassador to Italy Ivor Roberts said in his testimony before the committee.

PUS Sir Peter Ricketts said the amount of money available for security enhancements is less than that demanded despite ‘considerable’ security upgrades needed at many embassies. Foreign diplomats now fear that the belt-tightening will affect the services they normally enjoy from the FCO.