Reputation Of The British Council And The United Kingdom Is An Important Aspect Of The Financial Discussion

Stephen Kinnock: Does the hon. Gentleman agree that the effect on the reputation of the British Council and the United Kingdom is an important aspect of the discussion of financing?

Stephen Kinnock: Does the hon. Gentleman agree that the effect on the reputation of the British Council and the United Kingdom is an important aspect of the discussion of financing? Is there a risk of a negative reputational effect if the British Council starts to be perceived as a money-making machine in the economies where it works, rather than an organisation concerned with building mutually beneficial partnerships?

Mr Baron:  I tend to agree, but there is a balance. In defence of what happened previously, I would say that when the funding was £200 million, there were always commercial activities in the British Council, especially through the teaching of English overseas, for which its reputation is second to none. I agree, but I am trying to get across the point that as the British Council must increasingly gear up, in a commercial sense, to make good sizeable funding cuts—something like 20% in the past five years—there is a risk of losing sight of the balance. I ask the Minister of State to consider that and give us his response, because I, like the other Members in the Chamber, worry about the integrity and credibility of the British Council. That needs to be addressed, and it is a concern that has been expressed by those at the top table of the British Council itself.