HC Deb 31 January 1996 vol 270 cc986-7
4. Mr. Simon Coombs

To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland if he will make a statement on the current level of Scottish exports. [10788]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. George Kynoch)

Scotland's manufactured exports have reached an all-time record of £14.3 billion.

Mr. Coombs

Can my hon. Friend confirm that, besides whisky and computers, almost all sectors of Scottish industry showed export growth in 1994 and that, in particular, the motor car and spare parts industries showed an increase of almost 60 per cent. on the rate in the previous year? What would be the effect of a tartan tax on that excellent growth record?

Mr. Kynoch

My hon. Friend is absolutely right to highlight the exporting successes during the past year. In fact, exports in the food and drink industries, excluding whisky, increased by more than 11 per cent.; paper and printing exports increased by 23.7 per cent.; and chemicals exports increased by 14 per cent. Growth has been right across the board.

My hon. Friend is absolutely right to refer to a tartan tax because export success depends on the competitiveness of the Scottish industrial base. Not only would a tartan tax hit exports, but I read in the press this morning that the deputy general secretary of the Scottish Trades Union Council proposes that we now go for a four-day week, but maintain wage rates. That would result in a 25 per cent. increase in costs and a dramatic reduction in competitiveness, which would be disastrous for exports and disastrous for business.

Mr. David Marshall

What information can the Minister provide to the House on the progress of negotiations with Japan about the vexed question of taxation and Scotch whisky exports?

Mr. Kynoch

I think that the hon. Gentleman will be aware that that subject is examined constantly. The World Trade Organisation is considering the matter at present, and both Scottish Office and other Ministers raise the issue with the Japanese Government whenever they visit Japan.

Mr. Gallie

Is my hon. Friend aware that the rise in Scottish exports has played a major part in reducing unemployment in my constituency by 24 per cent. in the past three years? What assurances can he give me that that welcome progress will continue?

Mr. Kynoch

My hon. Friend's local enterprise company makes a sterling effort in that regard. That fact was repeated to me this morning when I attended the celebrations for the bicentenary of Robert Burns's death. [Interruption.] That shows that I learn quickly. Scottish Enterprise, together with the local enterprise companies, is participating in the new export strategy, the international challenge, which I launched in September. We are making a great effort to ensure that small and medium-sized companies receive the best possible exporting assistance. That will ensure continuing success and continuing record exports from Scotland.

Mr. Beggs

Does the Minister agree that exporters in the west of Scotland, the highlands and islands, Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic would benefit from increased funding and further expenditure on the A75 and the west coast main line? Will the Scottish Office endeavour to ensure that such upgrading continues?

Mr. Kynoch

I am delighted to see the hon. Gentleman for the second time today—he was present this morning at the ceremony at the statue of Robert Burns on the embankment. I hear what the hon. Gentleman says, and I shall ensure that my hon. Friend the Minister responsible for transport issues in the Scottish Office hears the same thing.

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