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British Engineering (Overseas Representation)

Volume 976: debated on Wednesday 16 January 1980

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4.

asked the Lord Privy Seal if he is satisfied with the current state of representation given to British engineering overseas via British embassy, facilities; and if he will consider the setting up of a Foreign Office-sponsored international engineering bureau for the purpose of co-ordinating British engineering developments and industrial growth with world-wide sales initiatives so as to ensure full integration between international banking and credit facilities, United Kingdom engineering manufacture and the successful sale or leasing of British engineering products overseas.

We are satisfied that British embassies take proper account of the overseas interests of British engineering. The question of departmental support in setting up an international engineering bureau is a matter for my right hon. Friends the Secretaries of State for Industry and for Trade.

Would the Minister of State give support to such a concept? Does he agree that now is the time when initiatives of this sort worldwide should be taken in order to enhance the efforts of British engineering to sell its products overseas? Although the whole House would pay tribute to the services now offered and given by British embassies throughout the world, is it not a fact that they remain unco-ordinated and there is, therefore, a need for a fresh look at the trade services and facilities offered by the Foreign Office so that they may be improved and linked with the efforts being made in this country?

There are about 750 United Kingdom-based and senior locally engaged officers employed on export promotion at more than 200 posts in more than 100 countries. I believe that they do excellent work, and I am grateful for the tribute which the hon. Gentleman paid to them. As to whether there should be co-ordination, that, as I have said, is a matter not for me but for my right hon. Friends.