Foreign and Commonwealth Office

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Foreign and Commonwealth Office
Foreign and Commonwealth Office Logo.svg
Foreign & Commonwealth Office main building.jpg
Foreign and Commonwealth Office Main Building, London, seen from Whitehall
Department overview
Formed1968;51 years ago (1968)
Preceding agencies
Jurisdiction United Kingdom
HeadquartersKing Charles Street
London, SW1
51°30′11″N0°07′40″W / 51.50306°N 0.12778°W / 51.50306; -0.12778 Coordinates: 51°30′11″N0°07′40″W / 51.50306°N 0.12778°W / 51.50306; -0.12778
Annual budget£1.1bn (current) & £0.1bn (capital) in 2015-16 [1]
Ministers responsible
Department executive
Child agencies
Website www.gov.uk/fco
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This article is part of a series on the
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The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO), commonly called the Foreign Office (which was the formal name of its predecessor until 1968), or British Foreign Office, is a department of the Government of the United Kingdom. It is responsible for protecting and promoting British interests worldwide and was created in 1968 by merging the Foreign Office and the Commonwealth Office.

Government of the United Kingdom Central government of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland

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.

Contents

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.

Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs United Kingdom government cabinet minister heading the Foreign and Commonwealth Office

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.

Cabinet of the United Kingdom Decision-making body of the Government of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland

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 22 cabinet ministers, the most senior of the government ministers.

Great Offices of State

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.

Permanent Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs

This is a list of Permanent Under-Secretaries in the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office since 1790.

Her Majestys Diplomatic Service diplomatic service of the United Kingdom

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.

Simon McDonald (diplomat) British diplomat

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.

Responsibilities

Ministers

The FCO Ministers are as follows: [2] [3]

MinisterRankPortfolio
The Rt Hon.Dominic Raab MP Secretary of State Overall responsibility for the department; Policy Unit; intelligence policy; honours.
The Rt Hon. Christopher Pincher MP Minister of State for Europe and the Americas The Americas (including Cuba and the Falkland Islands); Europe (including Turkey, Gibraltar and Sovereign Base Areas); deputy to the Foreign Secretary for EU Exit Cabinet Committees; eastern Europe and central Asia; defence and international security (only Euro-Atlantic security policy); multilateral policy (only OSCE, Council of Europe and sanctions); relations with Parliament.
The Rt Hon. Dr Andrew Murrison MPMinister of State for the Middle East & North Africa The Middle East and North Africa; stabilisation (including Stabilisation Unit); national security (excluding intelligence policy); defence and international security (excluding Euro-Atlantic security policy).
Andrew Stephenson MPMinister of State for Africa Africa; consular policy; LGBTQ+ equality.
The Rt Hon. Lord Ahmad Minister of State for the Commonwealth, the UN and South AsiaAll Foreign and Commonwealth Office business in the House of Lords; multilateral policy (including the Commonwealth, United Nations and human rights, excluding OSCE and Council of Europe); Preventing Sexual Violence in Conflict initiative; south Asia and Afghanistan; Overseas Territories (excluding Gibraltar, Sovereign Base Areas and the Falklands); the Caribbean (excluding Cuba); Foreign and Commonwealth Office operations.
Heather Wheeler MPParliamentary Under Secretary of State for Asia and the Pacific East and south-east Asia; Australasia and the Pacific; economic diplomacy (including Foreign and Commonwealth Office representative for Prosperity Fund Ministerial Board and climate change); oceans; communications; British Council; Economics Unit; gender equality (including gender and conflict, and women and girls' rights); protocol; Diplomatic Academy; estates and security.

History of the department


The Foreign Office

The Foreign Office building by Sir George Gilbert Scott, viewed from Horse Guards Road Foreign.office.london.arp.jpg
The Foreign Office building by Sir George Gilbert Scott, viewed from Horse Guards Road
Eighteenth century

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. [4]

Secretary of State for the Southern Department position in the cabinet of the government of Kingdom of Great Britain up to 1782

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.

Secretary of State for the Northern Department former cabinet position in Great Britain

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.

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.

Nineteenth century

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. [5] 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. [6]

<i>The Times</i> British daily compact newspaper owned by News UK

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, in turn 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.

R. H. Bruce Lockhart British writer, spy and diplomat

Sir Robert Hamilton Bruce Lockhart, KCMG was a British diplomat, journalist, author, secret agent and footballer. His 1932 book, Memoirs of a British Agent, became an international best-seller, and brought him to the world's attention. It tells of his failed effort to sabotage the Bolshevik revolution in Moscow in 1918; his co-conspirators were double agents working for the Bolsheviks. In the end the "Lockhart Plot" was a cunning 'sting', deliberately manufactured and controlled by Soviet master spy Felix Dzerzhinsky with the goal of discrediting the British and French governments.

Twentieth century

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. [7]

Arab Bureau

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 propaganda and intelligence about the Arab regions of the Middle East.

The Information Research Department (IRD), founded in 1948 by Christopher Mayhew, 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 Foreign and Commonwealth Office

The FCO was formed on 17 October 1968, from the merger of the short-lived Commonwealth Office and the Foreign Office. [8] 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. [9]

Developments

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. [10]

In 2009, Gordon Brown created the position of Chief Scientific Adviser (CSA) to the FCO. The first science adviser was David C. Clary. [11]

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. [12]

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." [13]

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. [14]

Overseas Territories Directorate

The Overseas Territories Directorate is responsible for the British Overseas Territories. [15]

FCO Services

In April 2006, a new executive agency was established, FCO Services, to provide corporate service functions. [16] 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 [17] 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. [18]

Since 2011, FCO Services has been developing the Government Secure Application Environment (GSAE) on a secure cloud computing platform to support UK government organisations. [19]

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.

Buildings

The western end of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office's building in 1866, facing St. James's Park. It was then occupied by the Foreign and India Offices, while the Home and Colonial Offices occupied the Whitehall end. Foreign and India Offices, London, 1866 ILN.jpg
The western end of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office's building in 1866, facing St. James's Park. It was then occupied by the Foreign and India Offices, while the Home and Colonial Offices occupied the Whitehall end.

As well as embassies abroad, the FCO has premises within the UK:

Foreign and Commonwealth Office Main Building

The Grand Staircase in September 2013 Cmglee London FCO Grand Staircase.jpg
The Grand Staircase in September 2013

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. [20] 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. [20] 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. [21] 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. [21]

Due to increasing numbers of staff, the offices became increasingly cramped and much of the fine Victorian interior was covered over—especially after the Second World War. In the 1960s, demolition was proposed, as part of major redevelopment plan for the area drawn up by architect Sir Leslie Martin. [20] A subsequent public outcry prevented these proposals from ever being implemented. Instead, the Foreign Office became a Grade I listed building in 1970. [20] 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. [20] 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. [22]

Devolution

International relations are handled centrally from Whitehall on behalf of the whole of the United Kingdom 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. [23] 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."[ citation needed ]

See also

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References

  1. Foreign Office Settlement. London: HM Treasury. 2015. Retrieved 20 May 2016.
  2. "Our ministers". GOV.UK. Foreign and Commonwealth Office. Retrieved 1 August 2019.
  3. "Her Majesty's Official Opposition". UK Parliament. Retrieved 17 October 2017.
  4. A brief history of the FCO Foreign and Commonwealth Office
  5. Weller, Toni (June 2010). "The Victorian information age: nineteenth century answers to today's information policy questions?". History & Policy. United Kingdom: History & Policy. Retrieved 9 December 2010.
  6. Berridge, G. R. "A Diplomatic Whistleblower in the Victorian Era" (PDF). grberridge.diplomacy.edu. Retrieved 5 June 2017.
  7. "Women and the Foreign Office". Issu.com. Foreign and Commonwealth Office. Retrieved 23 October 2018.
  8. "The Foreign and Commonwealth Ministries merge". The Glasgow Herald. 17 October 1968. p. 1. Retrieved 28 October 2017.
  9. Archives, The National. "The National Archives - Homepage". labs.nationalarchives.gov.uk.
  10. "BBC NEWS - UK - UK Politics - Foreign Office management damned".
  11. Clary, David (16 September 2013). "A Scientist in the Foreign Office". Science & Diplomacy. 2 (3).
  12. "Apology over Pope 'condom' memo". BBC News. 25 April 2010.
  13. "'Investigate UK funding of Palestinian NGOs'". thejc.com.
  14. Gaspers, Jan (November 2012). "At the Helm of a New Commonwealth Diplomatic Network: In the United Kingdom's Interest?" . Retrieved 26 November 2012.
  15. Foreign & Commonwealth Office (June 2012). The Overseas Territories: Security, Success and Sustainability (PDF). ISBN   9780101837422.
  16. "Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs". Hansard. March 2006.
  17. "The FCO Services Trading Fund Order 2008". UK Legislation. National Archives. Retrieved 1 May 2012.
  18. "Who we are". FCO Services. 24 May 2011. Archived from the original on 22 February 2013. Retrieved 18 June 2011.CS1 maint: BOT: original-url status unknown (link)
  19. Say, Mark (21 July 2011). "FCO Services pushes secure cloud platform". Guardian Government Computing. Retrieved 1 May 2012.
  20. 1 2 3 4 5 Foreign & Commonwealth Office History Archived 24 September 2012 at the Wayback Machine
  21. 1 2 "Foreign & Commonwealth Office: Route" (PDF). FCO. Archived from the original (PDF) on 24 September 2012.
  22. "Mace wins £20m Whitehall Foreign Office refit". constructionenquirer.com.
  23. Scottish gains at Euro fish talks, Scottish Government, 16 December 2009