HC Deb 11 January 1995 vol 252 cc133-4
1. Mr. Battle

To ask the President of the Board of Trade how many firms in Leeds have benefited from ECGD funds in the last 12 months.

The Minister for Export Trade (Mr. Richard Needham)

ECGD has supported one case in the last 12 months involving a firm based in Leeds.

Mr. Battle

Will not the future prospects for exporting from Leeds and other areas be jeopardised by the Department's proposals to fragment the regional DTI teams into Business Links, effectively reducing export advice and back-up? As the Barnsley Business Links already appears to be in financial difficulties and is laying off staff, will not the Department's proposals to strip down the regional DTI offices take effect at the price of exports and local jobs?

Mr. Needham

To ask a question on the Order Paper about ECGD and export insurance in Leeds and then follow it up by talking about Business Links shows the hon. Gentleman's lack of understanding and knowledge about exports. What the Government are offering through Business Links throughout the country is a service to exporters that will match anything offered by any of our competitors anywhere in the world. If the hon. Gentleman would come with me some day to see some of the Business Links he might have more idea of what he is talking about.

Mr. Riddick

Is my right hon. Friend aware that manufacturing companies in Leeds and in Yorkshire as a whole are more than playing their part in Britain's current superb exporting performance? ECGD funding can be helpful, but is not the most crucial factor in winning markets overseas that British companies should maximise their productivity and competitiveness, and that the British Government should not foist unnecessary rules and costs on to those companies? That is why we must stay well clear of the social chapter.

Mr. Needham

Leeds is one of the centres of British manufacturing excellence and has been for a century or more. Leeds, with our other great cities, is leading a remarkable export success story. Our manufacturing record is now better than that of France, Japan or Germany. Perhaps Opposition Members might like to congratulate us on that.

Mr. Clapham

Has the sale of ECGD business to NCM encouraged more firms to invest in unstable areas of the world such as the former Soviet Union?

Mr. Needham

NCM is a short-term reinsurance cover for business, and has nothing to do with companies investing either in the former Soviet Union or anywhere else. Once again, the ignorance of Opposition Members is palpable to all.