THE FOREIGN Office will this week host a high-powered seminar - attended by up to 250 business leaders - promoting trade with Europe. It is a move seen in Whitehall as staking a claim to a large part of the territory covered by the Department of Trade & Industry.
The conference, called Business and the New Europe, will feature a recorded video message from the Prime Minister and a keynote address by Peter Mandelson, the former Trade Secretary now at the Northern Ireland office. It is sponsored by KPMG, the accountants.
It will boast presentations from six ministers - two of whom are in the Cabinet - four ambassadors and the former European Commissioner Lord Brittan. Topics will include entrepreneurship, financial services, better reg- ulation and the skills agenda.
Keith Vaz, the Minster for Europe, told the Independent on Sunday that the Foreign Office had never held a trade seminar in the UK before. "This will be a big first for us," he said. "We have the full support of the Prime Minister in this, and this fits in with the agenda that he has set us."
However, the conference is bound to be seized upon by critics of Stephen Byers, the under- fire Secretary of State for Trade & Industry, as another intrusion into his department's role.
The DTI has already found the Treasury taking the lead in areas of financial regulation - particularly to do with mortgages - leading to a Cabinet turf war between Mr Byers and Gordon Brown, the Chancellor. …