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Volume 568: debated on Wednesday 9 October 2013

The Government recognise the importance of exports to the economy. I was pleased to welcome the chief executive of UK Trade & Investment, Nick Baird, to Cardiff last month to underline the support that UKTI can offer to businesses in Wales.

That is further proof that the Government are taking action to increase exports, but what steps will the Secretary of State take to ensure that Britain and Wales continue to benefit from opportunities in Europe by trading through and to Europe?

My hon. Friend is right. Wales is largely a country of small and medium-sized enterprises, and if more SMEs were to export at the European rate, that would wipe out the trade deficit altogether. I strongly encourage Welsh companies to engage closely with UKTI, as it has global reach and is able to maximise opportunities throughout Europe and the rest of the world.

What impact does the Secretary of State think that uncertainty over the UK’s role in the European Union—uncertainty created by his Government—will have on exports from Wales?

I am sure the hon. Gentleman engages closely with his constituents and will know there is general dissatisfaction with the current settlement in Europe. We think our position in Europe should be renegotiated, and it is right to take sufficient time over that negotiation. At the end of that period, by 2017, we will put the issue of whether Britain should be a member of the European Union to the people of this country in an in/out referendum.

All constituent parts of the UK ran trade surpluses in 2012—all except England. That puts paid to the caricature of Welsh business as failing in some way, and the surplus from Wales was £5 billion in 2012. What can be done to encourage micro-businesses such as those in my constituency to understand the value of exports and the opportunities they offer in the face of austerity from this Government, and indifference and incompetence from the Government in Cardiff?

The hon. Gentleman is right to say that Welsh businesses have been successful, but we want them to be even more successful. I therefore encourage Welsh businesses of whatever size to engage closely with UKTI, which as I said has global reach and is in the best position to maximise opportunities throughout the world.