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Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (Exports)

Volume 555: debated on Thursday 20 December 2012

4. What steps he is taking to increase the number of small and medium-sized enterprises which export to international markets. (134538)

8. What steps he is taking to increase the number of small and medium-sized enterprises which export to international markets. (134543)

Exporting is a key part of the Government’s plans to return the economy to sustained and balanced growth. That is why we have increased funding to UK Trade and Investment in the autumn statement—an extra £140 million over the next two years—enabling UKTI to double the number of small and medium-sized firms supported from 25,000 to 50,000 by 2015.

Automotive Insulations is a supplier to the motor industry based in my constituency and has increased turnover from £3 million to £14 million over the past few years, expanding its business to supply European motor manufacturers as well as those based in the UK. The current advice and support from UKTI is to focus on fast-growing markets outside Europe, but does the Minister agree that starting to export is a very big step for a small or medium-sized business and it is often easier to start exporting by supplying to our closest neighbours?

I congratulate Automotive Insulations on its extraordinary success over the past few years. Of course for an automotive company it may make sense to start with helping to penetrate the European supply chains, but in due course it may want to look further afield. In the end, this is a matter for the company to decide, but of course it is for the Government to provide help and advice.

Brentford and Isleworth is one of the fastest growing areas for new businesses in the country, with an increase of about 9%. It is important that we encourage SMEs to export around the world so that people can experience what is great about buying British. Will my right hon. Friend support and attend a trade and investment fair that I would like to organise for west London in the springtime, which will give local businesses more information on breaking into emerging markets and help them grow for the future?

I would be delighted to help with that event in any way I can, and I will ensure that officials from Shand house, UK Trade and Investment’s regional London office, help as much as they can, too. I am aware of the exporting success of companies in west London. We would like to do everything we can to assist my hon. Friend.

The Minister will know that Yorkshire has a large number of manufacturing firms that export all over the world. They are particularly strong in the green sector, which the Secretary of State left out of his description a few moments ago—I am sure that he did not mean to, because he has been very supportive of manufacturing in Yorkshire. The fact of the matter is that the Treasury is the problem. We need more leadership from the Treasury and co-ordination across all Government Departments to ensure that we have the right skills and the appropriate level of investment in the manufacturing industry for this time.

I am very surprised to hear that kind of criticism after an autumn statement that increased investment allowances, announced a further round of regional growth funding and further lifted the burden of taxation on British business. British business has welcomed the autumn statement. I think that the hon. Gentleman ought to read it again.

Small and medium-sized businesses are clearly the heart of the community as they create and maintain jobs. What steps is the Minister taking to ensure that we have a UK strategy that enables all parts of the United Kingdom, and Northern Ireland in particular, to benefit from international markets?

UKTI is UK-wide and, of course, does everything it can to support exports from every part of the United Kingdom. As I have said, there is an increased focus on helping small and medium-sized firms to export, which is why we are providing a new facility from April to extend credit totalling £1.5 billion for small firms that need it for longer term financing—three to five years—for contracts overseas.

18. The improvements the Minister mentions with regard to UKTI are being recognised in Lancashire, with much more outreach work with local chambers of commerce and Members of Parliament. How will he build on that, particularly with smaller businesses that, as other Members have mentioned, often lack the personnel to attend conferences during the day? (134556)

Let me reassure my hon. Friend that UKTI will continue its outreach activity in Lancashire and the rest of the country to encourage and support as many businesses as possible. Exporting is vital for our economy and exports are now increasing again, which is why UKTI was given such a boost in the autumn statement. That means UKTI is increasing its number of international trade advisers, and we are also placing officials from UK Export Finance in the regional offices so that more businesses, particularly small businesses, can benefit from their advice.