Having successfully cut this cake to wish the British Council the happiest of 80th birthdays and also having had a most enjoyable tour here and met all sorts of different groups, I apologise if I’ve kept many of you waiting, but at least it’s reminded me of just what a remarkable organisation the British Council is.
Thirty years ago I was asked to become Vice Patron of the British Council and was able to take an interest in what I think is a remarkable effort over the last 80 years. And it is true I think that if we didn’t have such a thing as the British Council we in this country would be in a far less advantageous position because through the work of so many people and I was fascinated to discover that the British Council has 7500 employees now I think, I’ve just met the head of HR, whose job I don’t always envy because looking after so many is quite a hard task but it does mean that you cover an enormous part of the world. And the fact that you can spread not only British culture but also science, technology, arts, everything else, language training that of course I’ve come across in so many different parts of the world through being lucky enough to visit British Council offices; either I’m opening them, or sometimes shutting them. But it is a truly impressive task that is carried out.
And now of course you not only do that but you bring so many people here from all around the world who we hope develop a love and interest in this country. And I’m so pleased to hear that you will be able to provide opportunities for 100,000 young people to be able to have mind broadening and horizon broadening experiences in different parts of the world. For that I can only salute the British Council.
So having said that ladies and gentlemen I just wanted to congratulate all those who are involved within the Council. The teachers, all the different committees, the trustees, who I know put so much time and effort in to this organisation. And just say that I do hope the next 20 years I hope I shall be around to celebrate the centenary, when I may just be able to totter down the Mall, to be able to join you on that occasion. But thank you for the remarkable work you do in so many different ways. And despite the fact that I know the British Council is constantly being reviewed just to work out if you still have any relevance or not, which I know you do. So, many congratulations.