§ 4.3 p.m.
§ THE MINISTER OF STATE, BOARD OF TRADE (LORD BROWN)
My Lords, with permission, I will repeat a Statement which has just been made in another place by my right honourable friend the President of the Board of Trade. The Statement is as follows:
§ " Since 1964 a number of far-reaching improvements have been made in the facilities offered by 980 E.C.G.D. I am happy to announce to-day two further major extensions of these facilities which should bring immediate additional benefit to a large number of exporters and encourage their search for new business and new markets.
§ " First, a scheme will now be launched to cheapen and simplify the financing of exports in the important field between 30 days and two years. The basis of this scheme at first will be an unconditional guarantee by E.C.G.D. to the banks, of 100 per cent. of a bill of exchange at bank rate, with a minimum of 4½ per cent. The banks will not make any additional charge. The exporter will receive cash for his goods by the time of shipment and will be freed from bank recourse from the time when the Bill is accepted.
§ " Secondly, I propose to extend the existing scheme by which E.C.G.D. gives a guarantee to banks which provide finance for exports at a fixed interest rate of 5½ per cent., plus the usual bank charges. At present the scheme has been limited to a minimum order value of £25,000. E.C.G.D. will now be ready to consider any cases where two years or more credit has been authorised. I am circulating in the OFFICIAL REPORT a more detailed Statement of these two new schemes. They will both, I believe, bring substantial new assistance to exporters."
§ [Following is the detailed statement referred to by Lord Brown]:
§ E.C.G.D. Guarantees to Banks
§ As a first step the new facility for credit periods between 30 days and two years will apply to credit insured exports where payment is due against a negotiable instrument, for example a bill of exchange or promissory note.
§ For each insured exporter E.C.G.D. will give the exporter's bank a guarantee covering them up to a stated maximum amount outstanding. The exporter will undertake to make good to the Department any payments which are made to the bank and which are not immediately payable by E.C.G.D. to the exporter under the standard credit insurance policy. To obtain the finance the exporter will apply to his bank in the normal way producing the bills of exchange and supporting evidence of shipment, together with a form of warranty that the transaction is export business eligible under the scheme.
§ The bank will advance 100 per cent. of the principal value of the bill of exchange relating to the shipment charging the exporter 981 interest at bank rate (variable, but with a minimum of 4½ per cent.) until payment is received. Once the buyer has accepted the bill, the bank will look to him for payment, or should be default, to the E.C.G.D. The effect will be that the exporter will have received cash for his export by the time of shipment and will be freed from the risk of bank recourse at an early stage.
§ The only additional cost to the exporter (beyond the interest) will be the E.C.G.D. charge for the supplementary guarantee. This has been set for the time being at 2s. 6d., yearly, per £100 of the guarantee limit. Banks will not make any additional bank charges for the facility.
§ E.C.G.D. will begin to invite applications from their policy-holders within the next few weeks. It will be a condition of application that the exporter has held standard E.C.G.D. comprehensive cover for at least a year. As the number of exporters concerned is too large for us to lake on all applications straight away, E.C.G.D. will first approach those companies conducting the largest volume of insured export business. All eligible firms on E.C.G.D.s books however will be invited to apply as soon as we are ready to deal with their applications.
§ There is a different set of problems to be tackled where there is no separate negotiable document, such as a bill of exchange, providing evidence of the buyer's indebtedness, in respect of which E.C.G.D. could give its unconditional guarantee. We are continuing discussions about this type of transaction, and hope that a solution may be found which would enable us to extend the advantages of this scheme to transactions where firms are unable to obtain negotiable instruments.
§ E.C.G.D. are also extending their facility for Guarantees to Banks under which the banks provide finance at a fixed rate of 5½ per cent. plus appropriate bank charges. These are issued case by case and cover the field of credit terms of two years and upwards and where at present a minimum order value of £25,000 is operative. There may be instances where it is necessary in order to meet credit competition to give two years' credit or more for contracts below this value limit. E.C.G.D. will now be prepared, in cases where the banks are agreeable, to consider them for cover under the existing scheme.
§ Taken together with existing facilities access to special export finance will now be possible over a very wide field of credit business. The new scheme will be available for re-exports, but we are not prepared to extend these guarantees to the financing of merchanting business conducted outside this country with goods not produced in Britain.
§ The new arrangements will bring immediate benefit to a large number of exporters in many industries and will be a positive encouragement in their search for new customers and new markets. We shall watch with interest the use made of the scheme and be ready to introduce changes if they prove desirable in the light of experience.982
§ LORD ERROLL OF HALE
My Lords, I am sure that noble Lords would wish me to thank the noble Lord for having read out that Statement. It is somewhat complicated in its terms but is of great importance to those engaged in exporting; and, at the same time, it provides yet another example of the way in which the banks and City institutions are playing a full part in Britain's export drive. Whilst we shall obviously require an opportunity of studying the detailed Statement which is being circulated in the OFFICIAL REPORT, may I ask the noble Lord two questions? First of all, has this extension of the facilities received the wholehearted approval of the Advisory Council to the E.C.G.D.? Secondly, will these extensions be self-supporting financially, or will they be subsidised by the other operations of the Department?
§ LORD BROWN
My Lords, the Advisory Council has approved. Actuarial calculations which have been made lead to the belief that these extensions will be self-supporting. But the noble Lord will understand that this is a somewhat speculative matter, dealing with a form of insurance which has not been attempted before, and it is a matter of hope rather than certainty.