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Developing World (Orders)

Volume 87: debated on Wednesday 27 November 1985

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asked the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what steps the Government are taking to assist British companies to win export orders from the developing world.

In addition to the help given already by my Department, by the commercial services of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and by the Overseas Development Administration, my right hon. and learned Friend announced on 12 November that the Government are introducing, under the aid and trade provision, a soft loan facility.

I very much welcome my right hon. Friend's success in producing the soft loan facility, which will put British companies on a more equal footing with their foreign competitors.

Is it not the case that already our aid and trade provision has produced £1,600 million of orders for British companies? What additional impact does my right hon. Friend think the new facility will have?

The figure that my hon. Friend cited for the value of orders that the ATP has secured is broadly accurate. The new soft loan facility announced by my right hon. and learned Friend will increase the potential business that could be won with the ATP from about £250 million a year now to £500 million a year by 1988–89, so it is a substantial increase.

May I emphasise the serious position in the heavy engineering industry, especially the turbine sector, which is trying to make inroads into developing countries, but which is being frustrated by the soft loan facilities introduced by France and other competitors? Is the Minister aware that that industry is losing magnificent opportunities in places such as China? What will he do about it?

I shall do exactly what I have already outlined. We have held discussions with the Chinese authoritities about a soft loan facility, and that is now available in China. I believe that companies in the hon. Gentleman's constituency are already in touch with my Department on that matter.

Does my right hon. Friend agree that the best service that the Government can render to both our exporters and the developing countries is to resist protectionism wherever it arises—whether in Japan, other countries or even this country?

I agree with my hon. Friend, which is why we have welcomed the GATT talks currently taking place in Geneva. I hope that they will lead to a proper round of talks next year.

While we welcome the extended scope of the aid and trade provision, does the Minister recognise how far short the measures announced in the Gracious Speech fall of what industry is requesting? Does not industry want a doubling of the money available under that scheme, with a roll-over provision so that what is not spent in one year can be spent in the following year, and a streamlining of the procedures by which decisions are taken? When will the Minister move on those important points?

I disagree utterly with the hon. Gentleman. Industry has welcomed my right hon. and learned Friend's announcement. We have already carried out streamlining and it is not presenting a problem at the present time. As I said a moment ago, the potential business that could be won with the new soft loan facility will double the effects of the ATP—

What is the difference? The effect is exactly the same—business will be doubled. That is a very substantial step, but it is typical of the Opposition to be grudging and resentful.