HC Deb 04 November 1997 vol 300 cc127-8W
Mr. Goggins

To ask the President of the Board of Trade if she will publish the conclusions of the Export Forum. [14581]

Mrs. Beckett

"Towards an Export Initiative"—the report of the Export Forum—has today been published and a copy placed in the Library of the House.

The Export Forum was established by the Department of Trade and Industry and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in July of this year. Its remit was to examine the effectiveness of current Government support for UK exporters and to make recommendations for a new export initiative.

The forum has concluded that government has a vital and essential role to play in export promotion. It recommends that the Government could discharge this role more effectively by taking action in the following areas. focusing additional effort on a small number of key overseas markets, as opposed to dividing all its effort between 80 "priority markets"; selecting these markets both with a view to the needs of the new and inexperienced exporter and with a view to helping all exporters attack difficult but promising markets where the UK is currently underperforming; incorporating the strengths and priorities of key sectors of UK industry into the planning process, with a better focus on service industries in particular; enhancing the support that it gives to UK firms seeking to invest overseas; ensuring greater consistency and improved quality in the export services delivered by Business Links and in the chargeable work of FCO posts; strengthening the marketing and branding of Government export support to obtain greater coherence and a more customer-friendly interface; making greater use of IT and the Internet in delivering services to UK exporters; restructuring and strengthening the British Overseas Trade Board as the Government's key advisory body on export promotion.

The Government welcomes the forum's report and the thrust of its recommendations. We will be looking to respond positively and to start work now in many of the areas outlined by the forum as requiring change. Our response in respect of some of the forum's recommendations will need to await the completion of the DTI and FCO comprehensive spending reviews.