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Technology Sector

Volume 621: debated on Thursday 9 February 2017

4. What steps his Department is taking to increase exports from and foreign direct investment in the technology sector. (908688)

Since 23 June, the UK has continued to attract investment from global technology companies, including SoftBank’s purchase of ARM, Facebook expanding by 50% in the UK, Google pledging to invest an estimated £1 billion, Snapchat’s new global headquarters in London and more. This Department additionally promotes and showcases the UK’s leading technology capability through our overseas network, and via our recently launched digital platform,

The global market for smart city technologies is now worth something in the region of $400 billion. British firms lead the way in many of the specialisations, but we could win more contracts if there were a UK approach to a complete smart city solution. I encourage Ministers to promote greater collaboration, both among businesses and between businesses and the Government.

My hon. Friend is absolutely correct and I agree with everything he said on the size of the UK capability, the size of the potential market and the need for a “Team UK” approach, which I spoke about recently when I visited his smart cities all-party parliamentary group just two weeks ago. In addition, I can announce today that two UK companies—Carillion and Zaha Hadid Architects—have secured a contract worth tens of millions of pounds to build a new headquarters in Sharjah in the United Arab Emirates, with support from UK Export Finance, which shows that the UK remains very much open for business.

The No. 1 tech Brexit worry is that when we leave, it will become unlawful to send personal data from Europe to the UK unless we have achieved an adequacy declaration from the European Commission about our data privacy arrangements. Important businesses will overnight become unviable. Will that declaration be achieved in time?

Fortuitously, I was in the Chamber for the earlier Question Time and heard the right hon. Gentleman ask precisely the same question of the Minister for Digital and Culture. The UK is committed to implementing the global agreement, and to ensuring that it works for the UK once we transition outside the European Union.

I welcome the British Business Bank announcement of £1 billion of funding. Will my right hon. Friend ensure that the technology sector gets its fair share so that Britain’s leadership in the fourth industrial revolution can continue?

I very much agree with my hon. Friend. I again praise his work on the fourth industrial revolution both in the House and beyond. He is a key advocate, not just in the UK but around the world, of ensuring that the UK takes advantage of its very great strengths in technology and its technological expertise.

Figures published by the Centre for Cities show that Glasgow’s exports of goods and services to the EU were worth more than £2.5 billion in 2014. Given the importance of Scotland’s membership of the single market to the technology sector in Glasgow, will the Minister commit to considering the Scottish Government’s proposals in the “Scotland’s Place in Europe” paper to keep Scotland in the single market?

I am very sympathetic to Glasgow maintaining its exports and capability in smart cities. The UK and the Department for International Trade follow a whole-UK approach, often working with key partners such as Scotland Development International. However, I would point out to the hon. Lady that Scotland remaining in the United Kingdom is more important. Some four times as much Scottish produce and capability is exported within the United Kingdom than to the European Union.

British tech firms have been unable to go to two US trade shows, and look unlikely to be able to attend a top conference and exhibition in Singapore, owing to extensive delays by the Minister’s Department in announcing trade access partnership funding. Will he go back to the Department and confirm the funding, so that British businesses can attend trade shows and play their part in boosting our exports and economy?

The Department continually reviews its products and services to ensure that it meets its customer needs and represents good value for the taxpayer. Business planning will be completed very shortly, so we will be confirming events shortly.