Chris Bryant just told the Commons that there is no attempt to “obfuscate” on the Foreign Office budget crisis. But his insistence that the overall budget is rising in pounds hardly gives a complete picture. All these statements are true:
1) FCO spending on counter-terrorism projects in Pakistan will go up from £8.2m to £9.5m next year.
2) Planned spending on CT in Pakistan has been cut. The FCO expected to spend more.
3) What is left of the budget will purchase less than expected in Pakistan because of the fall in spending power. The pound has plummeted against other currencies and a lot of the work will be paid for in dollars, or rupee bills pegged to the dollar.
4) None of the problems would have occurred before 2007 because the Treasury used to protect the FCO budget from fluctuations in the pound.
We asked the prime minister’s spokesman whether whether the FCO pounds would buy fewer rupees than a year ago and he replied: “Is that a serious question?”. Well, yes. We don’t ever, ever do humour at the FT.