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Businesses (Support)

Volume 626: debated on Thursday 6 July 2017

2. What steps he is taking to encourage businesses to take advantage of new opportunities for international trade. (900256)

The Department for International Trade provides market access, support and advice to UK business in the UK and in 109 markets overseas. Through the GREAT campaign, we build the global appetite for British goods and services, and give UK companies access to millions of pounds’ worth of potential business through the digital services offered on the digital platform.

It is a great tribute to my hon. Friend’s Department that in the first year of its operation, the Office for National Statistics reports that exports went up by a huge 7% to £548 billion. Does he agree that with the increase in demand for British exports, UK Export Finance, with its widened role, has an important part to play?

My hon. Friend is absolutely right to raise that matter. I thank him for the work he does on the all-party parliamentary group for international trade and investment. He is absolutely right that the Department for International Trade needs to provide a suite of services, and that includes UK Export Finance. Some 7,000 businesses have been helped by UK Export Finance, the appetite for risk has been doubled and we have increased the number of currencies we can use from 10 to 40, from the Australian dollar to the Zambian kwacha. That is part of a very wide range of things and we have been successful so far.

This Front-Bench team must know that a silly attack on the BBC cannot be used as an excuse for policy. This is a Secretary of State who has refused to meet the all-party parliamentary manufacturing group. The manufacturers I know have no confidence in this Secretary of State. They think he is living in cloud cuckoo land and is not competent, and they want his resignation.

Will the Minister explain what steps the Government are taking to ensure that, following our departure from the European Union, our export manufacturing businesses do not face high tariffs from other nations?

The Department for International Trade is embarking on a series of talks with the World Trade Organisation and individual countries to, in the first instance, secure continuity of business with those countries with which we already have agreements. I speak as a remainer from the campaign, but this is a fantastic opportunity to forge new trade deals and take advantage of the opportunities that Brexit presents.

To grow their international trade, many businesses need to be able to call on the best possible members of staff. What will the Minister do to ensure that freedom of movement is retained for those businesses, and that the investment they get through initiatives such as Horizon 2020 is still available to them?

It has always been the case that the Government have had not an open policy, but a mature policy for people who come from outside the European Union. Britain will certainly be open to the best and the brightest people in the world, who will want to come and work in what is, frankly, one of the best places to enlarge those skills.