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Export Strategy

Volume 634: debated on Thursday 11 January 2018

It is a pleasure to join a Government Front Bench full of fresh young talent—even if I am not among them. I pay tribute to my predecessor, my hon. Friend the Member for Wyre Forest (Mark Garnier), who showed tremendous commitment to investment promotion to the benefit both of his constituents and the nation as a whole.

Baroness Fairhead, the Minister of State for Trade and Export Promotion, is currently engaging closely with businesses to inform the creation of the new export strategy. Reporting in the spring, the strategy will ensure that the Government have the right financial, practical and promotional support in place to allow businesses to benefit from growth opportunities, generating wealth and wellbeing for the whole of the UK.

I congratulate the Minister on his promotion—I am sure he will do well—and I invite him to Mid Derbyshire at some point on his way back to his constituency. How will the Minister ensure that United Kingdom Export Finance is an integral part of the new export strategy?

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for her question, and I pay tribute to her for all her work promoting businesses in Derbyshire and beyond. UK Export Finance’s mission is to ensure that no viable UK export fails for lack of finance or insurance, and UKEF is at the heart of our export strategy. Today, I am pleased to announce an even more flexible local currency offering from UKEF to help UK exporters to compete for major overseas contracts. Finance is now available in 62 currencies for purchases from the UK, in addition to pounds sterling, which is an increase of 19 currencies, following the 30 added at the 2016 autumn statement.

The Secretary of State and his Department have made great play of promoting great British brands. Does the Minister agree that Colman’s of Norwich is best served by keeping production and the brand in Norwich, and will he join me in urging Unilever to do just that?

I do not want to get involved in internal battles in UK companies about the sites at which they base their operations, but I can tell the hon. Gentleman that growth in manufacturing exports is at a 10-year high and we need to continue to build on that, which would all be threatened if the Labour party were to come into office.

Exports are rising, but still only from a small proportion of British businesses. We need more exporters and a change of business culture, so may I urge the new Minister, with his colleagues, to challenge business representative bodies to ensure that exporting in Britain is the norm, not the exception?

I am grateful to my hon. Friend. Few people in the House have done so much to promote exports, and he is one of the 28 trade envoys doing a fantastic job for the country. Alongside the envoys, my Department works with 43 business ambassadors, who are at the forefront of the change that he describes. On the business representative bodies, the Department will engage with them in the export strategy review to ensure that the Government and the private sector work to provide businesses with the right practical, promotional and financial information to enable them to export.

11. Membership of the European Union single market is vital for Scotland’s economy. According to the Fraser of Allander Institute, 134,000 jobs in Scotland are supported by trade with the EU, and Brexit threatens to cost our economy £11 billion a year by 2030. Will the Minister reassure businesses in Scotland that they will continue to be able to export tariff-free to the world’s biggest single market after Brexit? (903222)

The hon. Lady is quite right to highlight and champion exports from Scotland, and she will know that the greatest export market for Scottish businesses is the rest of the United Kingdom. I can tell her that this Government will stay committed to promoting trade within the United Kingdom, with our neighbours in Europe and with the rest of the world to boot.

I, too, welcome the Minister to his place. I enjoyed serving with him on the Education Committee, and I look forward to debating these important matters with him.

Evidence to the former Business, Innovation and Skills Committee showed a budget of £23.6 million for the trade access partnership in 2013-14, which fell to £11.05 million in 2014-15 and to just £8 million the following year. We are now in the final quarter of this financial year and, just as last year, the Government still have not said what the current budget is. When are they going to end the uncertainty for business, and tell us how much money they are giving to support exporters who want to go to trade shows to promote exports for business and the economy?

As usual, I am afraid, Opposition Front Benchers are confusing inputs with outputs and outcomes. We are focused on promoting exports. We are doing that successfully, building on the position in 2010, and that is why we are seeing a record level of the manufacturing and other exports on which the hon. Gentleman’s constituents depend.