HC Deb 05 February 1998 vol 305 cc1219-20
16. Mr. Barry Jones

What additional help she proposes to provide to assist the promotion of manufacturing exports. [25701]

Mrs. Beckett

I refer my hon. Friend to the answer I gave to my hon. Friend the Member for Northampton, North (Ms Keeble), in which I referred to our expansion of support for trade fairs and missions, as well as general export promotion.

Mr. Jones

Does my right hon. Friend agree that British Aerospace is a fine exporter for Britain, earning an average of £4 billion each year and creating and sustaining some 40,000 skilled and well-paid jobs? May I thank my right hon. Friend for the magnificent part that she played recently in ensuring that £120 million of launch aid came to my constituency for British Aerospace? I invite her to come to my constituency and see the development of wing technology at the Airbus factory. We would like to say a proper and sincere thank you for all her help to the industry.

Mrs. Beckett

I am grateful to my hon. Friend. He is right: the programme of launch investment that the Government have agreed with British Aerospace will secure 2,000 high-tech and innovative jobs in the United Kingdom. With the engine supply work that Rolls-Royce has secured, almost 50 per cent. of the Airbus 340X will come from the United Kingdom—a further example of British technological success and achievement.

Mr. Hayes

Will the right hon. Lady comment on the damage that the strength of the pound is doing to manufacturing industries that export? Is she aware of the damage to morale and business confidence, which a survey in my area showed were falling because of the Government's inability or unwillingness to deal with the strength of the pound? What proposals does she have to tackle those problems?

Mrs. Beckett

I do not know whether the hon. Gentleman was in the Chamber earlier, but I have already answered that question several times. The Government are well aware of the concerns in some sectors of industry. We have put in place policies that we believe will produce low inflation and sustainable growth in the long term. We also believe that our policies will secure a stable and competitive exchange rate over time.

Mr. Sheerman

Is my right hon. Friend aware that one of the most effective ways of increasing the export potential of small and medium firms is to put together those who export and those who have not yet exported? Is she aware of the success of export clubs across the country? We welcome the money that she announced in answer to a previous question. Will some of that flow towards the greater stimulation of export clubs and the transmission of knowledge, which is vital for us to ensure export development?

Mrs. Beckett

My hon. Friend is entirely right. He gives a very good example. The process of mentoring and learning from other best practice is now widespread in British business, where it has a great deal to contribute. I entirely share his view that such advice and support can increase our exports.

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