HC Deb 05 June 1991 vol 192 cc264-5
7. Mr. Dalyell

To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if he will make a statement on the follow-up of his official visit to Kuwait.

Mr. Lilley

Since my visit the known value of contracts won by British companies in Kuwait has risen from about £70 million to at least £181 million. The Kuwaiti British Fire Group has signed an agreement with the Kuwait Oil company to survey the damage to the Sabriyah oilfield. The Government have continued to support the City's proposals for the administration of compensation claims.

Mr. Dalyell

In the task of trying to put out the resource-consuming, earth-polluting, cancer-giving 700 plus oil fires in Kuwait, are not small British firms disadvantaged in relation to their American counterparts by not getting the financial guarantees that the Americans enjoy?

Mr. Lilley

Certainly not. We have done all that we can to put large companies in touch with small companies with innovative ideas, and to put those ideas directly to the Kuwaiti authorities. The Americans are jealous of our actions to ensure that British companies have a lead in getting business in Kuwait, and there have been complaints in the American press that the American Government have not been as helpful as we have in this matter. We have received many thanks and much support from British industry for the upfront way in which we have approached the issue.

Mr. Bill Walker

Will my right hon. Friend confirm that, because of the unique experience gained in the North sea, British companies are in a strong position to exploit the opportunities that exist today in Kuwait? Will he also confirm that the British are held in high regard in Kuwait and it is the combination of those two factors that are making the Americans envious?

Mr. Lilley

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. It is good news that the Kuwaiti British Fire Group, which I think includes Scottish interests as well as those from the rest of the United Kingdom, has won the contract, which could lead to extensive work in Kuwait. I pay tribute to it for its efforts on that front.