HC Deb 05 April 1995 vol 257 cc1723-4
9. Mr. Spring

To ask the President of the Board of Trade how many export promoters have been seconded to his Department from the private sector; and if he will make a statement. [16442]

Mr. Needham

Last July, the Department achieved its aim of recruiting 100 export promoters—high-calibre senior managers with export expertise, on secondment from the private sector, who have become a major success in helping Britain to win business overseas.

Mr. Spring

I salute the Department of Trade and Industry's initiative. Does my right hon. Friend agree that that excellent marriage between the public and private sectors is contributing greatly to the staggering success of British exports, notably to Latin America, the Indian sub-continent and the Pacific Rim, with all the job creation opportunities which flow from that to Britain?

Mr. Needham

In agreeing with my hon. Friend, and without wanting to be invidious with regard to naming names, because all the export promoters have done a remarkable job, may I say that one promoter, Linda Boize, is working on an order for Thailand worth £360 million. The Thai Government have told us that that project could not be carried out anywhere but in Britain. It is being carried out as a result of the work of Linda Boize and her colleagues.

Mr. Harvey

Can the Minister give the House an absolute assurance that there have been no exports or arrangements for the sale of electro-shock equipment involving any British companies since 1984?

Mr. Needham

The answer is no. That has nothing whatsoever to do with export promoters. If the hon. Gentleman wants to know how export promoters can help companies in his constituency, he might like to ask questions about the subject in hand.

Mr. Enright

Despite the admitted success of the people we have sent out, will the Minister explain why, in the 12 years after 1979, this country lagged behind all the G7 countries and all the European Union countries, apart from Denmark, our beloved Greece and even Spain, with regard to the rise in exports? That was the case despite North sea oil and the gift that it provided.

Mr. Needham

I have bandied statistics with the hon. Gentleman and I was grateful for his recent work in Austria. However, we are lagging behind no one. Since 1981, our exports have increased faster than those in Germany, Japan and the United States. That is not a bad record. As I told the hon. Gentleman—he clearly did not hear this last time—our share of world trade has stabilised since the mid-1980s and, if anything, it is increasing. Under the Labour Government and previous Governments, it had suffered 100 years of inexorable decline. The change has come because of the policies followed by this Government.

Mr. Jacques Arnold

Has my right hon. Friend noticed the very considerable increase in our exports to Latin America which coincided with the appointment of the new export promoters, notably covering Colombia and Brazil? Can we hope for a further increase in the number of those excellent people, combining private sector skills with those of the outstanding diplomats in our embassies and commercial missions over there to increase British exports yet further?

Mr. Needham

My hon. Friend has a great knowledge of that part of the world and he has helped us as a result of that knowledge. He is perfectly right to say that we have eight export promoters for Latin America who are working as a team and doing an enormous amount through the links to Latin America campaign, which I hope hon. Members on both sides of the House will make use of in their constituencies, to show the opportunities that exist in Latin America for British business. I am convinced that the export promoter initiative will be a crucial ingredient in restoring the level of trade which this country used to enjoy in Latin America and which, since the 1920s, unfortunately has been declining, although it now seems to be on the way up again.