Foreign Secretary William Hague has announced that the first meeting of the Locarno Group of former senior diplomats will take place on 24 November.
The purpose of the group is to help retain the experience and expertise of those who have served at the top of the Foreign Office.
It will act as an additional source of advice to the Foreign Secretary on issues relating to the Foreign Office and Foreign Policy.
It will meet formally at least once a year and can be consulted by Ministers whenever necessary. The participants are giving their time voluntarily.
The launch of the group is part of the Foreign Secretary’s drive to strengthen the Foreign and Commonwealth Office as an institution at the heart of government, capable of developing and pursuing an effective British foreign policy long into the future.
The Foreign Secretary said:
“I consider it a central part of my mission as Foreign Secretary to seek a permanent and well-entrenched improvement in Britain’s ability to project its influence overseas, founded on a revived and reinvigorated Foreign Office that leads thinking on foreign policy across government and that places Britain at the centre of the new networks of the 21st century.
It must be a Foreign Office with a clear sense of purpose, greater ambition, a stronger diplomatic network and even deeper skills and capability. It must have the confidence of the Prime Minister and be able to negotiate, influence, advise and act for Britain anywhere in the world.
This Government has set out to reverse the decline in the Foreign Office’s position in government in recent years and to equip it with the skills and capability to carry out its vital role.
Part of the answer is our programme of Diplomatic Excellence - which is already giving our diplomats extra training in traditional diplomatic skills, languages and economic expertise.
But we are also transforming the Foreign Office’s approach to its alumni by setting up the Locarno Group that begins its work this week. We want to retain and draw upon the expertise of people who have spent years serving this country in the Foreign Office in different capacities. This will help us retain vital knowledge in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.
Democracies need strong institutions that are centres of excellence that people aspire to be associated with and feel connected to even after they leave. I am proud of what the Foreign and Commonwealth Office stands for and achieves, and I want to ensure that it is a thriving institution for years to come. I am confident that the Locarno Group will support effective foreign policy and a stronger Foreign Office, and I thank its members for taking part.”
Locarno Group terms of reference
- To support and challenge the development and implementation of the FCO’s foreign policy, through direct discussion with and advice to the Foreign Secretary, drawing on the knowledge, experience and continuing engagement with foreign policy of senior FCO alumni.
- The Group’s work will contribute to the Foreign Secretary’s wider efforts to strengthen the long term capability and international effectiveness of the FCO as an institution at the heart of government, and improve our country’s capacity to pursue effective foreign policy for the years and decades to come.
- The group will convene formally at least once a year for discussions of strategic foreign policy issues chaired by the Foreign Secretary, and with relevant serving FCO officials in attendance.
- Ministers and senior officials intend to consult the Group’s members at other times as a sounding board and to provide alternative points of view and to assist in other ways as agreed between the FCO and members of the Group in the development and implementation of foreign policy.
- Members of the Group will have the appropriate level of security clearance, so that they are able to access selected classified FCO papers to inform discussions.
- The Group’s discussions will be treated as confidential advice to Ministers on the formulation and development of foreign policy. They will not be made public without the agreement of the Foreign Secretary.
The group will be made up of senior FCO alumni, selected for their breadth of experience and expertise. The members of the group as of November 2011 are:
Sir Michael Arthur
Sir Daniel Bethlehem
Sir William Ehrman
Dame Glynne Evans
Sir Jeremy Greenstock
Sir John Holmes
Sir Stephen Wall
The members of the Group are acting in an unpaid capacity, although the FCO will reimburse reasonable travel expenses incurred by participation in this Group.
Members of the Group may end their involvement in the group at any time by mutual agreement with the Foreign Secretary.
The first meeting of the Group will be on 24 November 2011.
Further meetings of the Group will be scheduled by mutual agreement between the FCO and members of the Group.
The purpose and membership of the Group will be reviewed after one year.