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UK Exports

Volume 617: debated on Tuesday 29 November 2016

10. What fiscal steps he has taken to help increase levels of UK exports since the UK’s decision to leave the EU. (907548)

The Government are committed to ensuring that exporters receive world-class support. That is why the autumn statement announced the doubling of UK export finance capacity.

Last week, the OBR reduced its trade forecast, stating that this is

“due to the loss of trade that the OBR judges will result from the UK leaving the EU.”

We all know that this Government would like to have their cake and eat it, but changes to export finance alone will not bridge the gap between ambition and reality. Do the Government seriously expect to meet their own target of doubling exports without continued membership of the single market and without a comprehensive plan to do so? Do the Government stand by their exports target?

We do, and it is interesting to note that the Federation of Small Businesses, for example, welcomed the doubling of export finance because it felt that it would help small and medium-sized enterprises reach new markets. It is also interesting to note that the Scotch Whisky Association highlights the importance of exports, and it has seen an increase of 3.1%, to 531 million bottles. Perhaps the hon. Lady might remove uncertainty in Scotland by stopping banging on about a second referendum.

Does my hon. Friend agree that the best thing the Treasury can do to help British business export is to allow it to keep more of the profits it earns by continuing to cut corporation tax?

We have legislated for corporation tax to be reduced to 17% by the end of this Parliament—one of the lowest rates in the G7—and we will do all we can to help businesses grow and thrive in this country.

Last week’s autumn statement should have been about providing answers to meet the challenges of Brexit and at least information on the options available. Instead, it appears that the only information we can glean is from photos snatched of the notes of a senior Conservative official in Downing Street. We know now, in the light of that leak, that many of the Chancellor’s senior colleagues in the Government are reluctant to pursue the transitional deal being called for by businesses when we leave the EU. Will the Minister now provide some clarity by inviting the Treasury and the Office for Budget Responsibility to undertake a full assessment of the public finance implications of the range of policy options associated with Brexit, including access—or not—to the single market, being in or out of the customs union and the potential for transitional arrangements?

I have to tell the right hon. Gentleman that that is a normal part of what we do on a very regular basis, and he really should not believe all he reads in newspapers from researchers or Back Benchers—it is hardly Government policy.

I take that as a no.

Last week, we learned in the OBR report that the OBR was denied any information in respect of assurances provided to Nissan. The OBR said:

“On this occasion we asked specifically whether any contingent liabilities had been created in respect of assurances provided to Nissan and the Treasury declined to say.”

This level of opaqueness on an existing deal undermines the certainty businesses need to invest in any future deals. Will the Chancellor now provide the OBR with the information it has requested, so that it can provide a more accurate forecast, rather than being left in the dark or, as it put it, “none the wiser”?

Perhaps we should welcome the jobs to start with. However, in answer to the right hon. Gentleman’s question, it was, unfortunately, not possible to confirm this to the OBR in time to feed into the drafting process. Her Majesty’s Treasury therefore provided the same answer as it would to any query on contingent liability.