A key British cultural organisation is not being abandoned by the UK government, a minister has insisted, amid concerns over possible outpost closures.
Conservative MP John Baron used a Commons urgent question to warn a £10 million shortfall has left the British Council facing the prospect of shutting some of its international network.
The Basildon and Billericay MP said the organisation’s commercial activities have been “savaged” by the Covid-19 pandemic and pressed ministers to do more to show their commitment to their “global Britain” ambitions.
But Foreign Office minister Nigel Adams insisted the government is giving the body a funding boost, adding: “Plans for their global presence are still being finalised.
“It is a matter for the British Council to comment on these plans.”
After shadow Foreign Office minister Stephen Kinnock claimed there was an “ambivalence” from the government towards the council, Adams replied: “We will be providing £149 million grant-in-aid this year, £189 million grant-in-aid next year – that’s an increase of 26%.
“We provided the British Council with a £145 million Covid loan, we’re providing a £100 million loan to help them restructure, in March 2020 we provided £26 million – £609 million of British taxpayers’ money since the pandemic hit doesn’t sound like ambivalence to me.”
Adams added the government values the “influence” of the council, which aims to promote British culture, education and the English language.
SNP international development spokesman Chris Law said: “The decision by the UK government to refuse to support the British Council in its hour of need is further evidence of the little Britain attitude at the heart of this government.”
But Adams replied: “I have a lot of time for (Law) but references to little Britain are frankly quite nonsensical.
“I’m not entirely sure whether he listened to my statement – we’re increasing funding next year to the British Council by 26%.
“That is not abandoning the British Council. We value the work of the British Council. We’re going to be supporting them.
“We’ve stuck up for them. We’ve got them a good settlement going forward. We’ve helped bail them out when times have got tough. We’ll continue to work with them to ensure they continue the fantastic work that they do around the globe.”