The Minister of State, Department for Business, Innovation and Skills & Foreign and Commonwealth, Lord Green of Hurstpierpoint
“My Ministers have, of course, met a wide range of business people at meetings in the office, on overseas visits, conferences, trade shows, luncheons, dinners, receptions and constituency engagements. In addition, my Ministers and I have visited the following businesses since being appointed (including): HSBC Holdings, London, 10 June 1997” (HC Deb 23 July 1997 vol 298 cc675-6W 675W )
Months later, Baroness Smith of Gilmorehill, the widow of former Labour Leader, John Smith – who had initiated the prawn cocktail offensive as shadow chancellor in the early 1990s, and who died of a heart attack in his political prime in May 1994 – asked in the Lords whether there would be an increase in the number of businessmen on short-term attachments at posts overseas.
Foreign Office minister, Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean, responded “We made a commitment in our Business Manifesto to improve the focus of our efforts to back British business selling abroad, to enhance the co-ordination of government trade and investment promotion, and to promote business secondments with this department.
The Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs was pleased to announce that we have secured a commitment from a number of leading companies to lend members of their staff to this department to work on specific promotions or projects overseas for periods of a few months. These people will provide valuable expertise to support and promote the activities of the commercial sections of our overseas posts. Each attachment will have a specific focus, such as privatisation projects, inward investment promotion, management of commercial promotions, marketing of UK financial services, or identifying market opportunities in specific sectors.
The Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs welcomed the wholehearted support for this initiative of the CBI. They have encouraged a number of their members to participate from the outset, including British Airways, BOC, ICL, Wimpey, British Aerospace, BT, British Steel, BNFL, BUPA, HSBC and Glaxo Wellcome. Other companies have expressed a strong interest, and the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs is confident that more attachments will be arranged in the coming months.
This is a commitment to a rolling programme of attachments to strengthen our partnership with business. In the longer term we hope that companies will be able to second suitable staff to serve as part of the established commercial teams in overseas posts, and in return provide opportunities for this department's staff to hone their business skills by hosting secondments.” (HL Deb 14 October 1997 vol 582 cc180-1WA 180WA)
In July the next year, Lord Kennet, the Labour and later SDP peer, who has since died, asked
Whether any of the firms lending members of staff to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office are wholly or in part foreign-owned; and, if they are in part foreign-owned, in which country that ownership is legally based?
In the following October, Tory back bench MP, Sir Richard Body, asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer what criteria would be used to select non-civil servants serving on the EMU preparation unit in his Department? Economic Secretary to the Treasury, Patricia Hewitt, later to hold several full Cabinet posts, said: “ The Chancellor of the Exchequer announced in November last year that the Euro Preparations Unit would be set up to raise awareness and encourage preparatory activity across the UK economy. The unit is staffed by officials from DTI, DfEE and HM Treasury as well as a secondee from HSBC Midland with extensive small business experience.(HC Deb 19 October 1998 vol 317 c923W)