HC Deb 27 February 2001 vol 363 cc703-4
5. Ms Sally Keeble (Northampton, North)

What assistance and advice on promoting overseas trade is being offered to the English regions by British Trade International. [149705]

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Mr. Brian Wilson)

British Trade International, through its trade support arm Trade Partners UK, delivers its advice and assistance in the English regions through international trade teams in the business links, led by nine international trade directors. Assistance covers every facet of international trade, with particular emphasis on small and medium enterprises.

Ms Keeble

I thank my hon. Friend for that reply. Is he aware that business link in Northamptonshire, which is a full programme of trade fairs, found in a recent survey that there had been a 6 per cent. increase in the value of export sales by local firms in the last half of last year and that, in addition, 65 to 70 per cent. of those exports were to the European Union? Does he agree that the important job of building on that success is ill served by the Conservative party's anti-European rhetoric?

Mr. Wilson

I do not know very many serious exporters who would support the Conservative party's policy. Indeed, they can be certain that the key to the success of British exporters lies largely in Europe and that any turning of our back on Europe would be disastrous for them. Our record success in attracting inward investment is due to our place in the EU and the Government's position on the single currency.

Mr. Crispin Blunt (Reigate)

Will the hon. Gentleman ensure that British Trade International bears in mind, when giving advice to British regions and elsewhere, the experience of Sainsbury and Wena Hotels Ltd. in trading and investing in Egypt, and warns potential British investors in Egypt of the possible pitfalls of investing in that country?

Mr. Wilson

The normal advice is available to any company investing in any country. Personally, I would not give such advice on Egypt, with which we have very good relations. The Wena Hotels case to which the hon. Gentleman refers is the subject of on-going legal action. As he knows, because I wrote to him, I raised the matter with the Prime Minister of Egypt when I met him recently. Equally, the Sainsbury story is complex and I do not think that it has yet reached its conclusion. I would certainly not reach the general conclusion about Egypt that the hon. Gentleman has drawn.

Mr. Adrian Bailey (West Bromwich, West)

Did my hon. Friend notice the recent call by the chairman of Ford Europe for the Tory party to rethink its policy on the euro? Does not my hon. Friend think that the Tory party is putting its own prejudices before the interests of British jobs, British workers—

Mr. Speaker

Order. The Minister is not responsible for those matters. [HON. MEMBERS: "Nobody is."] Order.

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