Foreign and Commonwealth Office Main Building, London, seen from Whitehall
|Headquarters||King Charles Street|
|Annual budget||£1.1bn (current) & £0.1bn (capital) in 2015-16|
|This article is part of a series on the|
politics and government of
the United Kingdom
The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO), commonly called the Foreign Office, is a department of the Government of the United Kingdom. It is responsible for protecting and promoting British interests worldwide. It was created in 1968 by merging the Foreign Office and the Commonwealth Office.
The Government of the United Kingdom, formally referred to as Her Majesty's Government, is the central government of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. It is also commonly referred to as simply the UK Government or the British Government.
The Secretary of State for Commonwealth Affairs was a British Cabinet minister responsible for dealing with the United Kingdom's relations with members of the Commonwealth of Nations. The minister's department was the Commonwealth Office.
The head of the FCO is the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, commonly abbreviated to "Foreign Secretary". This is regarded as one of the four most prestigious positions in the Cabinet – the Great Offices of State – alongside those of Prime Minister, Chancellor of the Exchequer and Home Secretary.
Her Majesty's Principal Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, normally referred to as the Foreign Secretary, is a senior, high-ranking official within the Government of the United Kingdom and head of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. The Foreign Secretary is a member of the Cabinet, and the post is considered one of the Great Offices of State. It is considered a position similar to that of Foreign Minister in other countries. The Foreign Secretary reports directly to the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom.
The Cabinet of the United Kingdom is the collective decision-making body of Her Majesty's Government of the United Kingdom, composed of the Prime Minister and 21 cabinet ministers, the most senior of the government ministers.
The Great Offices of State in the United Kingdom are the four most senior and prestigious posts in the British government. They are the Prime Minister, Chancellor of the Exchequer, Foreign Secretary and Home Secretary. According to convention, when the Prime Minister names his or her Cabinet, either after a general election or a mid-term reshuffle, the first Cabinet ministers to be announced are the Chancellor, the Foreign Secretary and the Home Secretary.
The FCO is managed from day to day by a civil servant, the Permanent Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, who also acts as the Head of Her Majesty's Diplomatic Service. This position is held by Sir Simon McDonald, who took office on 1 September 2015.
This is a list of Permanent Under-Secretaries in the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office since 1790.
Her Majesty's Diplomatic Service (HMDS) is the diplomatic service of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, dealing with foreign affairs, as opposed to the Home Civil Service, which deals with domestic affairs. It employs around 14,000 people, roughly one-third of whom are crown servants working directly for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, either in London or abroad. The remaining two thirds of staff are employed locally by one of nearly 270 British diplomatic missions abroad. The Permanent Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs is also the Head of the Diplomatic Service.
Sir Simon Gerard McDonald is a British diplomat who is Permanent Under-Secretary at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and Head of the Diplomatic Service.
The FCO Ministers are as follows:
|The Rt Hon Jeremy Hunt MP||Secretary of State||Overall responsibility for the department; Policy Unit; honours; intelligence policy|
|The Rt Hon. Sir Alan Duncan KCMG MP||Minister of State for Europe and the Americas||The Americas (including Cuba); Europe; NATO and European security; defence and international security; the Falkland Islands; polar regions; migration; protocol; human resources; OSCE and Council of Europe; relations with Parliament; FCO finance; knowledge and technology|
|The Rt Hon. Alistair Burt MP||Minister of State for the Middle East||The Middle East and North Africa; estates and security|
|The Rt Hon. The Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon||Minister of State for the Commonwealth and the UN||Department business in the House of Lords; the Commonwealth; the UN, peacekeeping conflict and International Criminal Court; Overseas Territories (excluding the Falklands, Sovereign Base Areas and Gibraltar); the Caribbean; human rights and modern slavery; national security; national security: counter-terrorism, countering violent extremism and cyber|
|The Rt Hon. Mark Field MP||Minister of State for Asia and the Pacific (Unpaid)||Asia (except Central Asia); Australasia and the Pacific; communications, public diplomacy and scholarships; the British Council; economic diplomacy; ministerial oversight of FCO Services|
|The Rt Hon. Harriett Baldwin MP||Minister of State for Africa||Africa; consular policy; FCO representative for cross-Whitehall funds; international crime; stabilisation|
|History of United Kingdom government departments with responsibility for foreign affairs|
| Northern Department |
| Foreign Office |
| Foreign and Commonwealth Office |
| Southern Department |
| Colonial Office |
| Home Office |
| War Office |
| War and Colonial Office |
| Colonial Office |
| Colonial Office |
| Commonwealth Office |
| Southern Department |
| Dominions Office |
| Commonwealth Relations Office |
|.|| India Office |
The Foreign Office was formed in March 1782 by combining the Southern and Northern Departments of the Secretary of State, each of which covered both foreign and domestic affairs in their parts of the Kingdom. The two departments' foreign affairs responsibilities became the Foreign Office, whilst their domestic affairs responsibilities were assigned to the Home Office. The Home Office is technically the senior.
The Secretary of State for the Southern Department was a position in the cabinet of the government of Kingdom of Great Britain up to 1782, when the Southern Department became the Foreign Office.
The Secretary of State for the Northern Department was a position in the Cabinet of the government of Great Britain up to 1782, when the Northern Department became the Home Office.
The Home Office (HO) is a ministerial department of Her Majesty's Government of the United Kingdom, responsible for immigration, security and law and order. As such it is responsible for policing in England and Wales, fire and rescue services in England, and visas and immigration and the Security Service (MI5). It is also in charge of government policy on security-related issues such as drugs, counter-terrorism and ID cards. It was formerly responsible for Her Majesty's Prison Service and the National Probation Service, but these have been transferred to the Ministry of Justice. The Cabinet minister responsible for the department is the Home Secretary.
During the 19th century, it was not infrequent for the Foreign Office to approach The Times newspaper and ask for continental intelligence, which was often superior to that conveyed by official sources.Examples of journalists who specialized in foreign affairs and were well connected to politicians included: Henry Southern, Valentine Chirol, Harold Nicolson, and Robert Bruce Lockhart.
The Times is a British daily national newspaper based in London. It began in 1785 under the title The Daily Universal Register, adopting its current name on 1 January 1788. The Times and its sister paper The Sunday Times are published by Times Newspapers, since 1981 a subsidiary of News UK, itself wholly owned by News Corp. The Times and The Sunday Times do not share editorial staff, were founded independently, and have only had common ownership since 1967.
Henry Southern (1799–1853) was an English journalist and diplomat, best known as the founder of the Retrospective Review.
Sir Ignatius Valentine Chirol was a British journalist, prolific author, historian and diplomat. He was a passionate imperialist and believed that Imperial Germany and Muslim unrest were the biggest threats to the British Empire.
During the First World War, the Arab Bureau was set up within the British Foreign Office as a section of the Cairo Intelligence Department. During the early cold war an important department was the Information Research Department, set up to counter Soviet propaganda and infiltration. The Foreign Office hired its first woman diplomat, Monica Milne, in 1946.
The Arab Bureau was a section of the Cairo Intelligence Department established in 1916 during the First World War, and closed in 1920, whose purpose was the collection and dissemination of intelligence about the Arab regions of the Middle East.
The Information Research Department (IRD), founded in 1948 by Christopher Mayhew MP, was a department of the British Foreign Office set up to counter Soviet propaganda and infiltration, particularly amongst the western labour movement.
Monica Milne was the first woman diplomat in the UK in 1946.
The FCO was formed on 17 October 1968, from the merger of the short-lived Commonwealth Office and the Foreign Office.The Commonwealth Office had been created only in 1966, by the merger of the Commonwealth Relations Office and the Colonial Office, the Commonwealth Relations Office having been formed by the merger of the Dominions Office and the India Office in 1947—with the Dominions Office having been split from the Colonial Office in 1925.
The Foreign and Commonwealth Office held responsibility for international development issues between 1970 and 1974, and again between 1979 and 1997. From 1997, this became the responsibility of the separate Department for International Development.
The National Archives website contains a Government timeline to show the departments responsible for Foreign Affairs from 1945.
When David Miliband took over as Foreign Secretary in June 2007, he set in hand a review of the FCO's strategic priorities. One of the key messages of these discussions was the conclusion that the existing framework of ten international strategic priorities, dating from 2003, was no longer appropriate. Although the framework had been useful in helping the FCO plan its work and allocate its resources, there was agreement that it needed a new framework to drive its work forward.
The new strategic framework consists of three core elements:
In August 2005, a report by management consultant group Collinson Grant was made public by Andrew Mackinlay. The report severely criticised the FCO's management structure, noting:
The Foreign Office commissioned the report to highlight areas which would help it achieve its pledge to reduce spending by £87 million over three years. In response to the report being made public, the Foreign Office stated it had already implemented the report's recommendations.
In 2009, Gordon Brown created the position of Chief Scientific Adviser (CSA) to the FCO. The first science adviser was David C. Clary.
On 25 April 2010, the department apologised after The Sunday Telegraph obtained a "foolish" document calling for the upcoming September visit of Pope Benedict XVI to be marked by the launch of "Benedict-branded" condoms, the opening of an abortion clinic and the blessing of a same-sex marriage.
In 2012, the Foreign Office was criticised by Gerald Steinberg, of the Jerusalem-based research institute NGO Monitor, saying that the Foreign Office and the Department for International Development provided more than £500,000 in funding to Palestinian NGOs which he said "promote political attacks on Israel." In response, a spokesman for the Foreign Office said "we are very careful about who and what we fund. The objective of our funding is to support efforts to achieve a two-state solution. Funding a particular project for a limited period of time does not mean that we endorse every single action or public comment made by an NGO or by its employees."
In September 2012, the FCO and the Canadian Department of Foreign Affairs signed a Memorandum of Understanding on diplomatic cooperation, which promotes the co-location of embassies, the joint provision of consular services, and common crisis response. The project has been criticised for further diminishing the UK's influence in Europe.
The Overseas Territories Directorate is responsible for the British Overseas Territories.
In April 2006, a new executive agency was established, FCO Services, to provide corporate service functions.It moved to Trading Fund status in April 2008, so that it had the ability to provide services similar to those it already offers to the FCO to other government departments and even to outside businesses.
It is accountable to the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, and provides secure support services to the FCO, other government departments and foreign governments and bodies with which the UK has close links.
Since 2011, FCO Services has been developing the Government Secure Application Environment (GSAE) on a secure cloud computing platform to support UK government organisations.
For over 10 years, FCO Services has been working globally, to keep customer assets and information safe. FCO Services is a public sector organisation, it is not funded by Vote and has to rely on the income it produces to meet its costs, by providing services on a commercial basis to customers both in the UK and throughout the world. Its Accounting Officer and Chief Executive is accountable to the Secretary of State for Foreign & Commonwealth Affairs and to Parliament, for the organisation's performance and conduct.
As well as embassies abroad, the FCO has premises within the UK:
The Foreign and Commonwealth Office occupies a building which originally provided premises for four separate government departments: the Foreign Office, the India Office, the Colonial Office, and the Home Office. Construction on the building began in 1861 and finished in 1868, and it was designed by the architect George Gilbert Scott.Its architecture is in the Italianate style; Scott had initially envisaged a Gothic design, but Lord Palmerston, then Prime Minister, insisted on a classical style. English sculptors Henry Hugh Armstead and John Birnie Philip produced a number of allegorical figures ('Art', 'Law', 'Commerce', etc.) for the exterior.
In 1925 the Foreign Office played host to the signing of the Locarno Treaties, aimed at reducing tension in Europe. The ceremony took place in a suite of rooms that had been designed for banqueting, which subsequently became known as the Locarno Suite.During the Second World War, the Locarno Suite's fine furnishings were removed or covered up, and it became home to a foreign office code-breaking department.
Due to increasing numbers of staff, the offices became increasingly cramped and much of the fine Victorian interior was covered over—especially after World War II. In the 1960s, demolition was proposed, as part of major redevelopment plan for the area drawn up by architect Sir Leslie Martin.A subsequent public outcry prevented these proposals from ever being implemented. Instead, the Foreign Office became a Grade 1 listed building in 1970. In 1978, the Home Office moved to a new building, easing overcrowding.
With a new sense of the building's historical value, it underwent a 17-year, £100 million restoration process, completed in 1997.The Locarno Suite, used as offices and storage since the Second World War, was fully restored for use in international conferences. The building is now open to the public each year over Open House Weekend.
In 2014 refurbishment to accommodate all Foreign and Commonwealth Office employees into one building was started by Mace.
International relations are handled centrally from Westminster on behalf of the whole of Britain and its dependencies. However, the devolved administrations also maintain an overseas presence in the European Union, the USA and China alongside British diplomatic missions. These offices aim to promote their own economies and ensure that devolved interests are taken into account in British foreign policy. Ministers from devolved administrations can attend international negotiations when agreed with the British Government e.g. EU fisheries negotiations. [ citation needed ]Similarly, ministers from the devolved administrations meet at approximately quarterly intervals through the Joint Ministerial Committee (Europe), chaired by the Foreign Secretary to "discuss matters bearing on devolved responsibilities that are under discussion within the European Union."
The diplomatic foreign relations of the United Kingdom are conducted by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, headed by the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs. The Prime Minister and numerous other agencies play a role in setting policy, and many institutions and businesses have a voice and a role.
The United States Department of State (DOS), commonly referred to as the State Department, is the federal executive department that advises the President and conducts international relations. Equivalent to the foreign ministry of other countries, it was established in 1789 as the nation's first executive department. The current Secretary of State is Mike Pompeo, who ascended to the office in April 2018 after Rex Tillerson resigned.
The British Overseas Territories (BOTs) or United Kingdom Overseas Territories (UKOTs) are 14 territories under the jurisdiction and sovereignty of the United Kingdom. They are remnants of the British Empire that have not been granted independence or have voted to remain British territories. These territories do not form part of the United Kingdom and, with the exception of Gibraltar, are not part of the European Union. Most of the permanently inhabited territories are internally self-governing, with the UK retaining responsibility for defence and foreign relations. Three are inhabited only by a transitory population of military or scientific personnel. They all share the British monarch as head of state.
The Secretary of State for the Colonies or Colonial Secretary was the British Cabinet minister in charge of managing the United Kingdom's various colonial dependencies.
Her Majesty's Principal Secretary of State for International Development is a British cabinet minister responsible for the Department for International Development and for promoting development overseas, particularly in developing countries. The post was created in 1997 when the Department for International Development was made independent of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO).
Valerie Ann Amos, Baroness Amos, is a British politician and diplomat who served as the eighth UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator. Before her appointment to the UN, she served as British High Commissioner to Australia. She was created a Labour Life Peer in 1997, becoming Leader of the House of Lords and Lord President of the Council.
The Department for International Development (DFID) is a United Kingdom government department responsible for administering overseas aid. The goal of the department is "to promote sustainable development and eliminate world poverty". DFID is headed by the United Kingdom's Secretary of State for International Development. The position has been held, since 9 November 2017, by Penny Mordaunt. In a 2010 report by the Development Assistance Committee (DAC), DFID was described as "an international development leader in times of global crisis". The UK aid logo is often used to publicly acknowledge DFID's development programmes are funded by UK taxpayers.
Global Affairs Canada, legally incorporated as the Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development, is the department in the Government of Canada that manages Canada's diplomatic and consular relations, to encourage the country's international trade, and to lead Canada's international development and humanitarian assistance. It is also responsible for maintaining Canadian government offices abroad with diplomatic and consular status on behalf of all government departments.
The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade is the department of the Government of Australia responsible for foreign policy, foreign relations, foreign aid, consular services, and trade and investment.
The Minister of State for Europe is an informal title for a ministerial position within the Government of the United Kingdom, in charge of affairs with Europe, the European Union and NATO.
The Philippines' Department of Foreign Affairs is the executive department of the Philippine government tasked to contribute to the enhancement of national security and the protection of the territorial integrity and national sovereignty, to participate in the national endeavor of sustaining development and enhancing the Philippines' competitive edge, to protect the rights and promote the welfare of Filipinos overseas and to mobilize them as partners in national development, to project a positive image of the Philippines, and to increase international understanding of Philippine culture for mutually-beneficial relations with other countries.
Patrick Richard Henry Wright, Baron Wright of Richmond is a retired British diplomat and former Head of HM Diplomatic Service.
The Ministry of Justice (MoJ) is a ministerial department of the British Government headed by the Secretary of State for Justice and Lord Chancellor. The department is also responsible for areas of constitutional policy not transferred in 2010 to the Deputy Prime Minister, human rights law and information rights law across the UK.
Sir Nigel Kim Darroch is a senior British diplomat, who since January 2016 has been British Ambassador to the United States.
Paul Thomas Arkwright is a British diplomat who was High Commissioner to the Federal Republic of Nigeria 2015–18.
The Embassy of the United Kingdom in Beijing is the chief diplomatic mission of the United Kingdom in the People's Republic of China. It is one of Britain's largest overseas embassies. It is located at 11 Guang Hua Lu, in the Chaoyang District. The current British Ambassador to China is Barbara Woodward.
Sir Alan Stanley Collins, KCVO, CMG, is a retired British diplomat and former Consul General in New York City (2007–11), High Commissioner to Singapore (2003–07) and Ambassador to the Philippines (1998–2002).
The Diplomatic Academy of the United Kingdom is part of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO). The creation of a new Diplomatic Academy was announced in a speech by William Hague, Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, on 19 September 2013 on the occasion of the opening of the FCO's new Language Centre. The Academy began operating in 2014 and was opened officially by Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond on 10 February 2015.
|Wikisource has the text of the 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica article Foreign Office .|