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Volume 613: debated on Tuesday 12 July 2016

2. What guidance he issues to British embassies on whether they are obliged to respond to inquiries from British companies seeking assistance to understand the laws and regulations relating to their business dealings with the country in which the embassy is based. (905809)

Our embassies and high commissions play a key role in promoting British interests and helping British companies to enter new markets. The Prime Minister, the Foreign Secretary and I have led delegations of businesses overseas, and we work closely with UKTI to ensure that our businesses receive continued support and advice.

One of my constituents has written to a certain embassy many times, and, although it acknowledges his correspondence, he has never received any further response, which is preventing him from fulfilling an important part of a significant business deal. Could the Minister provide any assistance by obtaining a full response from the embassy on behalf of my constituent, so that he can be given more information?

I was aware of that case, and I am grateful to the hon. Lady for raising it. If any other Members are concerned about a lack of support from embassies for businesses in their constituencies, will they please let us know?

I understand that the head of UKTI in Morocco, with which the company concerned wishes to trade, has been speaking to the company directly. I can only apologise for the delay in providing the normal level of support that we would expect to give any company wishing to do business in Morocco or, indeed, anywhere else.

Does my hon. Friend agree that not enough small and medium-sized businesses export around the world, and that, because our balance of trade is widening, we must constantly review our trade policy? In particular, does he agree that British embassies around the world could help with digital linking between consumers around the world and potential exporting companies in this country?

My hon. Friend raises an extremely important point, which covers a specific interest that we can espouse. The Foreign Secretary had an opportunity to brief ambassadors and high commissioners when they returned to the UK last week. Given the new environment in which we find ourselves, the role that embassies and high commissions can play throughout the world in establishing new markets and exploring new opportunities—as well as revisiting old ones—is now critical.