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"My ambition is a Foreign Office that is the best diplomatic service in the world"

Foreign Secretary William Hague talked of launching the biggest drive the department has ever seen to enhance the cutting edge abilities and diplomatic skills of the Foreign Office and to strengthen the UK's diplomatic network overseas.

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

In a speech at the Foreign Office on 8 September the Foreign Secretary said that the most important responsibility of any Foreign Secretary is making the right judgement about the most urgent challenges in foreign policy and tirelessly to promote the national interest:

“But it is not the only responsibility. My personal objective as Foreign Secretary is to do something else that I passionately believe is necessary: to strengthen the long term capability and international effectiveness of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office as an institution at the heart of government.”


The Foreign Secretary talked of setting out to strengthen systematically the capacity and reach of the Foreign Office in three principal ways:

“First, we have clarified and simplified the FCO’s purpose and priorities, refining the FCO’s objectives to three core tasks

Second, we have restored financial stability to the Foreign Office, which had been tottering on a financial precipice.

Third, we have launched the biggest drive to enhance the cutting edge abilities and diplomatic skills of the Foreign Office that the Department has ever seen; skills in negotiation, analysis, difficult languages, economics and policy making.”

He said that this Government will not close any of the existing 140 UK Sovereign Posts overseas:

“We are significantly increasing our diplomatic presence in India and China

We are substantially expanding our diplomatic strength in Brazil, Turkey, Mexico and Indonesia, Burma, Thailand, South Korea, North Korea, Mongolia, Malaysia, Nigeria, Angola, Botswana, Chile, Argentina, Colombia, Panama, Peru, Pakistan, Vietnam, the Philippines and our presence in Taiwan, maintaining the strength of our delegations to the United Nations in New York and Geneva, NATO and the European Union and keeping our network of Consulates General across the United States.”

In the countries where Embassies had closed that we are now re-opening, we are sending a signal that Britain is back in the business of serious diplomacy with them. Where we are increasing the numbers of FCO staff and consulates, we are able to build deeper diplomatic relationships and do more for British business and British citizens”

The Foreign Secretary said that in the Foreign Office we have set ourselves the goal of excellence in every crucial area of our work:

“We are already spending up to £1 million more each year teaching languages to our staff - an 30% increase over the year before the general election

We are equipping our diplomats with sharper economic skills

We are putting greater emphasis on cultivating and retaining knowledge throughout the institution”

“In twenty years time, diplomats who join the Foreign Office today will have had a greater opportunity than ever before to build up and retain real expertise in countries, regions, issues and languages, getting under the skin of places of importance or potential importance to the UK.

My ambition is a Foreign Office that is the best diplomatic service in the world.”

Updates to this page

Published 8 September 2011