Use of ‘soft power’ in interests of UK

03 May 2011

The House of Lords discussed the coordination between government departments in the use of soft power in the UK’s interests in the second of two balloted debates on Thursday 28 April.

Points of discussion included:

  • the meaning of ‘cultural diplomacy’
  • the role of journalism, including the BBC World Service and the impact of the reduction in funding
  • the work of the Westminster Foundation for Democracy (WFD), the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU), Commonwealth Parliamentary Association (CPA) and of the Public Diplomacy Board
  • cooperation between government departments and cultural organisations communications – including the Foreign & Commonwealth Office and Department of Culture, Media and Sports, the Arts Council and British Council.

Baroness Taylor of Bolton (Labour), a former Minister at the Ministry of Defence and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and Chair of the Intelligence and Security Committee opened the debate.

Contributors to the debate

Other Members who took part included the following (use links below to watch/listen to their contributions):

Former Ministers, international affairs and conflict resolution experts including:

  • Lord Howe of Aberavon (Conservative), former Foreign Secretary;
  • Lord Hannay of Chiswick (Crossbench), former diplomat and UK permanent representative to the European Economic Community and to the United Nations, former Special Representative for Cyprus and current Chair of the United Nations Association;
  • Lord Alderdice (Liberal Democrat) with a background in Northern Ireland and interests in terrorism and political conflict resolution.

Experts in British and international cultural sectors including:

  • Lord Hall of Birkenhead (Crossbench), Board Member of the London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games, Trustee of the British Council, and Chairman of the Cultural Olympiad Board;
  • Lord Smith of Finsbury (non-affiliated) a former Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport and joint author of ‘Suicide of the West’;
  • Lord Soley (Labour), Chairman of the Arab-Jewish Forum.

Other Members who spoke included Baroness Bakewell (Labour) and Lord Fowler (Conservative).

Lord Howell of Guildford (Conservative), Minister of State at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, responded on behalf of the government.

Read transcripts of the individual contributions in Lords Hansard: Lords debates by Member

Further information

Five hours are set aside on one Thursday in each month for two balloted debates in the House of Lords.

A balloted debate provides a forum to discuss a subject rather than decide on it.

This type of debate takes its name from how the subject for discussion is chosen – by randomly selecting from the topics proposed by Members of the Lords. The Clerk of the Parliaments carries this out.

Only Members on the back benches and cross benches can propose a topic for debate – known as tabling a motion.

Because the time limit for a balloted debate, the subject for debate must be narrow enough to discuss in that time. There are limits to speaking time for Members taking part. A schedule of speakers is usually available in advance. 

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