HC Deb 22 July 2002 vol 389 cc779-80W
Chris McCafferty

To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what percentage of export credit guarantees in 2001 was for environmental technology or services exports. [69413]

Ms Hewitt

[holding answer 15 July 2002]: For the financial year 2000–01, 1.2 per cent. of ECGD business issued/underwritten during the year was in respect of environmental technology projects or investments. This figure rose to 7.2 per cent. in 2001–02, a five-fold increase on the previous year.

Mr. David

To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what progress has been made towards establishing a trading fund for the Export Credits Guarantee Department. [72213]

Ms Hewitt

Earlier this year on7 February 2002, Official Report, column 1074W, I told the House that ECGD would give priority to its business and systems in order to make itself ready for establishment as a capitalised Trading Fund, my preferred option for its future operation. Work has now progressed sufficiently for me to confirm that ECGD will become a Trading Fund.

In making this commitment, I am conscious of the need for ECGD to complement market provision of export insurance and guarantees. As a result, ECGD should do more to stimulate the private market and develop new ways of working with them to benefit the UK economy by supporting UK exporters and investors in overseas markets.

ECGD will have greater operational autonomy as a Trading Fund. This will offer an improved service to customers, who have expressed concern during the programme of work, about ECGD's ability to provide adequate levels of support to exporters. Customers can expect greater clarity and certainty as to the levels of ECGD's support. I have also asked ECGD to improve its customer care for new customers and make it easier for them to access its support.

Research jointly commissioned by ECGD and HM Treasury from National Economic Research Associates (NERA) to quantify the net benefits to the UK economy of ECGD's operations will be published in due course.

My right hon. Friend the Chief Secretary to the Treasury—who has been closely involved with this whole process—and I have jointly commissioned ECGD and the Treasury to develop multilateral strategies to secure more robust financial disciplines in respect of Government supported export credit agencies.

Work will now continue to prepare ECGD for Trading Fund status. I will review the position—including the need to hold a further consultation—and will announce a timetable in the autumn.