HC Deb 09 November 1977 vol 938 cc656-7
7. Mr. Gwilym Roberts

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what steps he is taking to improve commercial support services at British posts and embassies overseas ; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Judd

My right hon. Friend is at present looking into these questions with other Ministers, particularly the Secretary of State for Trade, in the light of the issues raised in the CPRS report and from other sources.

Mr Roberts

Does my hon. Friend agree that, as the pound is revalued upwards and our exports become less price-competitive, the effectiveness of these commercial services becomes more and more important? Is he aware that it is now about three months since we had the CPRS Report, parts of which are widely welcomed in industry? Does he not now feel that it is time that something was done in this matter?

Mr. Judd

I assure my hon. Friend that we give the highest priority to the effectiveness of our commercial services abroad, and that we are determined to apply any good lessons from the CPRS report, and, indeed, any good lessons from other sources, on how to improve them. I am sure that my hon. Friend will want to note that we receive a very great number of commendations from business men and others about the quality of the services which are provided. But we are not complacent. We want to improve them all the time.

Mr. McCrindle

While paying tribute to the improved commercial services at most British embassies, may I urge the Minister to turn his attention to some of the smaller countries in South America, and some countries such as the Philippines and Thailand, where, because of the lack of commercial services to potential exporters from this country, many export orders appear to be going to our competitors?

Mr. Judd

The hon. Gentleman has made a very valid and important point, which needs to be borne in mind when the CPRS Report is evaluated. Export success, of course, is not only the winning of large orders in a few countries but is also made up of many successful smaller orders in many smaller countries.

Mr. MacFarquhar

Can my hon. Friend say whether the commercial support services at our embassy in Peking have already been so much improved that they are negotiating with the Chinese about the sale of Harriers? Whether or not such negotiations are taking place, will my hon. Friend at least tell the House whether the Chinese have approached us on that matter, and what is the attitude of the Foreign Office on it?

Mr. Judd

As my hon. Friend knows, it is not normal to go into detail on such points, but I can assure him that in Peking, as elsewhere, we are determined to follow up every opportunity that can properly be followed up for trade opportunities.

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