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Volume 534: debated on Thursday 27 October 2011

My Department is supporting British exports through UK Trade & Investment. Its strategy, which was launched in May 2011, sets out plans to provide practical support to exporters over the next five years. I have undertaken a number of visits overseas to promote British business to countries including China, India, Brazil, Japan, South Korea, Turkey and Romania, and next week I shall be in south-east Asia promoting British trade.

Britain is increasingly becoming a centre of excellence for high-tech, high-value manufacturing exports. In Derbyshire, we have some great high-tech exporters ranging from Rolls-Royce, which my right hon. Friend knows all about, to Pektron, an innovative, family-owned electronics manufacturer. What more can my right hon. Friend do to showcase those exceptional firms and remind people up and down the country and internationally that high-tech British goods are in demand everywhere, and that that needs to continue?

Yes, there are many successful British exporters. Over the past year, exports have grown on a year-to-year basis by about 9%. Where we have fallen down historically is that British small and medium-sized companies have not been as involved in exporting as the larger enterprises such as Rolls-Royce. One of the main commitments in the UKTI strategy is to concentrate help and resources on those companies, which would undoubtedly help the specialist company in my hon. Friend’s constituency.

It is good to note that exports have risen to their highest level since records began, and I note the Government’s plans to double our exports to Brazil by 2015. Following the Foreign Affairs Select Committee report, what specific action is my right hon. Friend taking to help British exporters to overcome the language issues and bureaucratic barriers that might stand in the way of achieving that?

I went to Brazil precisely to answer that question. My hon. Friend is quite right to say that we are starting from a weak position. As a result of neglect in the past, Britain’s share of imports into Brazil is far lower than those of Germany, France and Italy, for example, and we must remedy that. We are putting in a major effort in Brazil, through UKTI, to capture some of the opportunities, particularly those that are arising from the expansion of the oil and gas industries there.

The Secretary of State has mentioned some exotic locations, but he did not mention the fact that he came to Huddersfield two weeks ago. Did he learn from that visit that export manufacturing is at the heart of getting the biggest bang for our buck, and that manufacturing for export counts for more in regard to the balance of trade? He talks about innovation and universities, but we do not want just seven—we want 133 innovation units.

As a Yorkshireman myself, I would hesitate to call Huddersfield an overseas market, but it is certainly an outstanding centre of excellence. I enjoyed my visit there. We visited David Brown, one of the recipients of regional growth fund money and a very successful manufacturing exporter. I would also commend going further up the valley to Todmorden, where there is a brilliant British casting and forging company working flat out in our major export markets.

UKTI has no presence in Wales, so what discussions has the right hon. Gentleman had with the Welsh Government to ensure that UKTI is doing its best to promote Welsh exports?

Of course the Welsh Government, as a devolved Government, have more responsibilities of their own in this field, but Wales is part of the UK and I will do my best to work with my Welsh Government colleagues to promote exports. I have already talked to the Secretary of State about getting more Welsh businesses represented on UKTI missions and on projects of that kind.