John Baron MP speaks in British Council debate

November 30, 2015
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MP says cuts risk organisation’s work

John Baron MP recently spoke in a Westminster Hall debate on the British Council. Founded in 1934, the Council promotes and promulgates British culture worldwide, and is estimated to interact with 300m people in over 100 countries each year. It is a key element of British ‘soft power’, which is often defined as the ability to attract and co-opt others to ‘want what you want’ – as opposed to traditional ‘hard power’ of military force and sanctions. In recent years, however, the British Council’s budget, which it receives from the Foreign & Commonwealth Office, has been reduced.

In the debate, John said,

“I rail against further cuts to the British Council. We have heard about funding being cut from £201m to around £154m. Yes, there has been a £10m increase since, but that is still a substantial cut of around £40m to a budget of £200m in the past five years.”

“The British Council has been left in a difficult situation because it must either scale back its activities when it comes to soft power capability, or become more commercial. A sum of £40m may not sound a lot in today’s world where figures of billions are bandied around, but to generate that £40m, assuming a profit margin of 10%, the British Council will really have to gear up its commercial activity.”

Afterwards, John said,

“The British Council does excellent work to encourage co-operation and improve communication, and makes a large contribution to Britain’s soft power capability. However, cuts to its budget will hamper its activity, and risks denting the British Council’s reputation through commercial activity. In today’s uncertain world, this is not in our long-term interests.”

Ends
Word Count: 290
Date: 27th November 2015

Notes to Editors:

• John’s speech can be found online at: http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201516/cmhansrd/cm151110/halltext/151110h0001.htm#15111026000220.
• John is a member of the Foreign Affairs Select Committee.

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