UK missions to be spared in cutbacks

Foreign Secretary William Hague has spoken out to defend Britain’s network of diplomatic missions overseas.

Giving evidence to the Foreign Affairs Select Committee, Mr Hague told MPs that it would be a “major error” to make big reductions to the UK’s overseas network and that closing dozens of small embassies to save money would be a “false economy”.

The foreign secretary said the UK got “value for money” out of the Foreign Office (FCO) whose spending was less than that of Kent County Council. The FCO accounted for just 0.3 per cent of total spending and closing the cheapest 40 missions would save £2.5m.

Mr Hague – who stressed he could not pre-empt the comprehensive spending review – said he was not intending that cuts would “have a dramatic effect on our role in world affairs”.

However, the Foreign Secretary added there was scope for savings, particularly in areas where Department for International Development or the British Council could share embassy premises.