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Export Growth Forecast

Volume 513: debated on Tuesday 13 July 2010

15. In what sectors of the economy he expects the export growth forecast contained in the June 2010 Budget to be achieved. (7706)

The export growth forecast produced by the Office for Budget Responsibility did not break it down by sector. However, we know that in 2009 manufacturing accounted for just over half of our exports, so there is a big opportunity here. We currently export more to Ireland than to Brazil, India, China and Russia combined. That is why the Prime Minister met the Indian Commerce Minister earlier this month to talk about economic opportunities for us over there. Later this month, he will lead a taskforce of UK business men to India to investigate export opportunities.

I am afraid that the Minister has not seen this morning’s report from Cambridge Econometrics, which examines the effect of the Budget on manufacturing, and predicts a decline in manufacturing share and an expansion in the financial sector to its highest share ever. Is that what the Minister means by rebalancing the economy?

Many people would consider that a bit rich coming from a member of the last Government, given that manufacturing declined at a steeper rate under them than under the previous Conservative Government. We aim to support manufacturing and, indeed, companies throughout our country through a robust and ambitious corporation tax package, through progress on national insurance, and through largely getting rid of the jobs tax that the last Government would have introduced. What we would like to hear from the Opposition is more constructive discussion about how to improve our exports.

In relation to export growth and other forecasting, will Ministers consider establishing a dynamic tax unit in the Treasury?

One of the reasons why we set up the Office for Budget Responsibility was to ensure far more independent and transparent forecasting in relation to not just exports but all economic indicators. I am sure that over time the OBR will continue to develop that forecasting to make it even more effective. Let us make no mistake: setting up the OBR was a huge step forward in terms not just of transparency, but of robust data on which the public can really rely.

Will not our exporters be hurt by the slashing of the capital allowances that went to our manufacturing industries? Is it not a hallmark of the Government’s priorities that they would rather give £400 million cashback to the banks by cutting their corporation tax than support our small and medium-sized enterprises in their export activities?

I am not sure whether the hon. Gentleman has talked to industry about its reaction to the Budget. I think that if he talked to the Institute of Directors, the CBI and the Federation of Small Businesses he would find that they welcome it, because they know it will help them to grow their businesses and grow employment. I only wish that the hon. Gentleman could recognise that and welcome it too.