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Jeremy Hunt insists there will be ‘no conflict of interest’ if business leaders become ambassadors


Jeremy Hunt has insisted plans to permit high-flying enterprise folks to develop into British ambassadors won’t result in conflicts of curiosity within the posts.

The International Secretary unveiled the transfer in a speech by which he introduced a programme to recruit an additional 1,000 diplomatic staff in the UK and abroad.

With Brexit simply 5 months away, he advised an viewers on the Coverage Trade suppose tank “we should reinvigorate and broaden British diplomacy”.

However his plan was criticised by a Civil Service commerce union, which mentioned it risked undermining UK pursuits overseas.

Requested about potential conflicts of pursuits in permitting enterprise tycoons to symbolize Britain overseas, Mr Hunt mentioned: “Our intention is one or two posts yearly, not more than that, may go to individuals who have been actually excellent in one other subject. However, it would undergo the right International Workplace recruitment course of. There will likely be completely no query of battle of curiosity.”

A Foreign Office spokesman mentioned the transfer to recruit ambassadors from different fields “builds on a college outreach programme launched earlier this 12 months which goals to encourage purposes from under-represented teams”.

British ambassadors are historically civil servants, typically with a protracted profession within the diplomatic service.

That is in distinction to different international locations such because the US, the place the president can nominate ambassadors, who then need to be authorised by the Senate.

Donald Trump made Woody Johnson, the billionaire proprietor of the New York Jets American soccer workforce, his ambassador in London final 12 months.

Dave Penman, common secretary of the FDA union which represents senior civil servants, mentioned: “The function of a diplomat in representing the UK’s pursuits overseas is far broader than merely commerce, which is why they undergo years of coaching and develop such a spread of abilities. That experience already contains worldwide commerce. To solely concentrate on this space dangers undermining the UK’s pursuits and affect given the complexities of worldwide relations.

“Diplomats are made, not born and the UK’s pursuits are greatest served by knowledgeable diplomatic service.”

Sir Christopher Meyer, a former British ambassador to the US, mentioned the function of ambassador was wider than simply commerce and funding, encompassing areas resembling media relations and a cultural function.

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He advised the BBC: “This can be a good concept in precept. The query is how wouldn’t it truly work in follow. In Jeremy Hunt’s speech there’s a little little bit of reinventing the wheel there. I can keep in mind again within the distant previous and when David Owen – Lord Owen – was overseas secretary, he launched the coverage of ‘interchange’ and that will put folks from the enterprise sector into the diplomatic service and vice versa.

“Did it ever actually take off? I do not suppose so, however in all my profession the International Workplace was at all times open to the concept of recruiting outdoors the skilled cadre.”

He added that one impediment had been the “modest” pay in contrast with what was on supply within the non-public sector.

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