§ 5. Mr. Livsey
asked the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what representations he has recently received on Government support for exporters.
§ The Minister for Trade (Mr. Alan Clark)
I receive frequent representations from industry about specific business opportunities overseas, and about services provided by the Government through the British Overseas Trade Board, which also advises the Government on these matters.
§ Mr. Livsey
Will the Minister look carefully at the CBI's "Business Manifesto", which expressly states that foreign Governments give their manufaturers far more support in relation to exports than is the case in this country?
The budget of the British Overseas Trade Board will rise next year and the year after to more than £28 million. In addition, some £100 million has been spent by the Foreign Office in the past two years through its commercial councellors in overseas posts.
§ Mr. Heathcoat-Amory
Has my hon. Friend heard the news from the British Footwear Manufacturers Federation that exports in the third quarter of this year were 20 per cent. up on last year and are now at an all-time record? Although the Opposition may have their own reasons for running down those achievements, is it not a 328 fact that important sections of British industry are now competing very well in the world markets? The best thing for my hon. Friend's Department would be to stay well clear of those industries.
§ Mr. Nicholas Brown
Is the Minister aware that no industrial sector has tried harder in the export field than the British power plant industry? As the Department of Trade and Industry is its sponsoring Department, what discussions does the Minister have with his right hon. Friend at the Department of Energy about securing a base domestic work load for that industrial sector?
§ Mr. Conway
Bearing in mind the success of my hon. Friend's Department in supporting the British Overseas Trade Board, the regional development councils and the chambers of trade in helping, assisting and advising exporters, will he tell the House what steps the Department could take to assist those exporters based in areas that are not in receipt of such Government largesse, especially those in rural areas?
§ Mr. Clark
All the facilities of the British Overseas Trade Board are available, and they are especially geared towards assisting smaller firms—such as those in my hon. Friend's constituency—which might not have full first-hand experience of exporting but are none the less well placed by reason of their products and their competitiveness to penetrate overseas markets. It is precisely those sectors that the BOTB is geared to assist.
Mr. Ron Brown
Has the Minister received any representations from NEI, bearing in mind that company's fine achievement in exporting submarine lifting gear to Libya? May I remind the Minister that that company is one of the biggest contributors to Tory party funds? It is also significant in the north-east of England and in Scotland. Has the Minister heard from that company?
§ Mr. Hirst
Is my hon. Friend aware that the Weir group of Glasgow, which has been making considerable efforts to develop its pump exports in Asia, and which was recently visited by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, has expressed considerable gratitude for the support and encouragement the Department has given it in developing these exports? Is that not precisely the role that his Department should be undertaking?
§ Mr. Robin Cook
Is the Minister aware that during the time of the Government the number of staff in his 329 Department working in exports has fallen from 1,200 to 700, that the number of overseas trade fairs has fallen by one seventh, the number of trade missions by a third, and the number of commercial counsellors attached to the Foreign Office by one sixth? Is not the outcome of that record that, having inherited a £3 billion surplus in manufacturing trade, the Government have successfully managed to convert it into a deficit of £4 billion? Why does the Minister not face that fact and admit that his Department's cuts have cut our exports?
§ Mr. Clark
I have already told the House that the budget is increasing for this year, next year and the year following. The hon. Gentleman referred to the decline in our manufacturing exports, but—as I hope to explain in answer to a later question, if we reach it—manufacturing exports have increased. The trend continues to be upwards.