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House of Commons Hansard
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29 March 2018
Volume 638
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3. What steps his Department is taking to support small and medium-sized businesses to export. [904658]

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Helping SMEs to export is a high priority for the Department, and we are working through our overseas network, through online services on great.gov.uk, which has had more than 3 million visitors, through our international trade advisers and through export finance. Last year, 79% of companies supported by UK Export Finance were SMEs. Mr Speaker, if, like Roger Federer, I can press on—albeit without the same grace—I would say that exports from the west midlands increased in value by more than 80% between 2010 and 2016.

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The Minister knows which buttons to press.

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It is great news about the west midlands, but a constituent of mine who has a small business providing services around the world came to tell me about the challenges he faces in getting appropriate banking facilities and about the need to minimise losses on currency transfers. What steps is the Department taking to make sure that UK banks provide the facilities, support and advice that SMEs need in order to export?

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As my hon. Friend will know from running a business, and as I do from my experience, this is a challenge and a work in progress. But we have established strategic relationships with the five leading UK banks. UK Export Finance launched a partnership with those banks in October 2017 to help not only exporters, but those who supply exporters, to easily access Government-backed financial support.

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The Minister wants to talk about his experience; I recall that when he worked for a living he certainly did not work in the manufacturing sector, and nor did the Secretary of State, who worked in the health sector. I worked in the manufacturing sector, and I can tell the Minister that up and down the country SMEs are struggling to export, given that they are going to be blocked off from a 600 million market and left with a 60 million one.

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This is a truly grim and sad time for those who want to see our departure from the EU lead to a collapse in investment and exports, as instead we have seen the exact opposite. We had record levels of foreign direct investment in this country. We have an improving climate for that and we have record numbers of exports from the hon. Gentleman’s area—from Yorkshire. It is about time he put the gloom away, because the facts keep defying him.

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Actually, it is £500 million less in the automotive sector. On supporting SMEs, will the Minister explain what the Government are going to do to help those businesses export to China and India? He will be aware that Germany, within the EU, exports twice as much to India as we do and four times as much within the EU as we do.

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I am afraid the right hon. Gentleman is a member of the same club. I hate to share this with the House, but exports to China were up by 30% last year.

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rose—

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rose—

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Order. There is something of an internal Scottish National party competition. I do not know whether one of them is thought to have greater seniority, but not in my mind. I call Kirsty Blackman.

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Many of our small and medium-sized enterprises are involved in premium manufacturing and other forms of high-value production. Will the Minister ensure that, in discussions with the EU, those things are taken into account when negotiators are discussing origin and the calculation of origin?

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All such issues are taken into account. Of course, the Department for Exiting the European Union leads on the negotiations on our exit from the EU.