Skip to main content


Volume 724: debated on Thursday 15 December 2022

Boosting exports is at the forefront of this Government’s agenda. I am pleased to say that UK exports were worth nearly £760 billion in the 12 months to the end of October 2022—that was an increase of £57 billion, once adjusted for inflation. Our Export Support Service has received more than 11,800 inquiries since its launch in October 2021, providing call-backs to customers and referring companies to other Department for International Trade services more effectively, to support them on their exporting journey.

The UK trade performance is the worst on record. Lost output is estimated at £100 billion a year. With such an appalling record, it is hardly surprising that the Government are making false claims to have secured £800 billion in new free trade deals when most post-Brexit trade deals are just roll-overs. Businesses in Bedford, big and small, are overburdened with red tape. Will the Minister explain how businesses in my constituency can improve growth and trade with the biggest trading bloc in the world?

I thank the hon. Gentleman for that question, but I am afraid that what he says is simply not true: the Japan deal was not a roll-over, and neither were those with Australia and New Zealand; the comprehensive and progressive agreement for trans-Pacific partnership discussions we are in right now will not lead to a roll- over; and a deal with India, where my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has just returned from, will not be a roll-over. The hon. Gentleman talks about the EU, so I am afraid I am going to have to repeat what I said earlier: trade with the EU in the year up to June was up by about 18% and worth £652.6 billion. We are committed to growing our exports around the world and supporting British exporters to get out there and sell fantastic British goods and services into new markets, but we are also committed to continuing to sell into the EU and we continue to do so very effectively indeed.

Farmers in my constituency —I remind the House that I am one—have expressed concerns about ensuring that agricultural interests are adequately taken into account in the upcoming free trade agreement with Canada and the trans-pacific trade agreement that the Minister refers to. I welcome him to his place; will he please invite the Secretary of State to meet me and other colleagues representing agricultural constituencies to discuss those concerns?

I thank my right hon. Friend for his question and for bringing to my attention that it will also be a new agreement between Canada and ourselves, which I forgot to mention in my earlier answer. We are pursuing an ambitious and comprehensive free trade agreement with Canada that builds on our existing trading relationship, already worth £23 billion. We have been clear that the new agreement must work for British exporters, including those in our agriculture and food and drink industries. That includes maintaining our high animal welfare and food safety standards for farmers in Ludlow and across the UK.

According to a recent report by the Social Market Foundation, while world goods exports were 7.9% higher by mid-2022 than they were at the end of 2019, the UK’s goods exports were 21% lower. “Could do better” would be a kind end-of-term report. Will the Minister now commit to a recommendation from the Institute of Directors to monitor and publish the impact of Government assistance from the Department’s teams—both overseas and UK- based—to assess their effectiveness and inform improvements so that all businesses get the best possible support for their exporting needs?

This Department and, in fact, this entire Government are committed to growing our exports. We are going to export our way to growth and, in the 12 months to December 2022, trade was worth £748 billion.[Official Report, 9 January 2023, Vol. 725, c. 6MC.] We are rolling out our export support service, making export champions more visible and more available across all nations and regions of this United Kingdom. We are committed to working with small and medium-sized enterprises to get them into exporting and we are supporting those companies that export already. We are driving up exports from this country and our new independent trade policy—something that, if the Labour party had its way, we would not have in the first place—allows us to do just that.