HC Deb 13 January 1988 vol 125 cc275-6
5. Mr. Amess

To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster how many people in his Department are engaged in export promotion work.

Mr. Alan Clark

Approximately 730.

Mr. Amess

Is my hon. Friend aware that many companies in Basildon have achieved excellent export results over the last year and that they have certainly been helped in their endeavours by his officials? Will he join me in congratulating two companies in particular, Fisherman's Friend, which now exports to 37 countries and has recently won a West German order for £1 million, and a much smaller firm, Uniscan, which, after inventing a walking frame for the disabled, now exports to six countries?

Mr. Clark

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his remarks about the officials in my Department. 1 am glad to extend congratulations to the companies that he mentioned. Of course, my Department will always do its best and, under the enterprise initiative announced yesterday my right hon. and learned Friend the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, we shall be able to do more, especially for small businesses. In the end, success is due to the efforts and the commitment of the private sector itself.

Mr. Campbell-Savours

Does the Minister recall that memorable day last year when we had all his huffing and puffing at the Dispatch Box about exports to Japan? Is he satisfied that since then there has been movement on this matter and, if so, could he tell us what movement there has been?

Mr. Clark

The puffing, which was not only from the Government side, related to exports from, not to, Japan. Alas, they are not in balance. However, exports to Japan have increased by 30 per cent. over the past year.

Mr. Wells

What evidence does my hon. Friend have that the export promotional activity of his Department is being hindered by the rise in the value of the pound?

Mr. Clark


Mr. Cryer

Are the 730 people who are assisting in export promotion making any dent in our massive balance of trade deficit in manufactured goods? When they assist British Leyland, for example, to recover a paltry proportion of exports to Japan, do they do it to help British manufacturing industry, or to fatten up British Leyland simply so that it can be sold off to the contributors of funds to the Tory party? If British Leyland is ever sold off it will be an outrage because of the vast quantities of taxpayers' money that have gone into that company. The citizens of Britain expect the Department to play its part in making sure that British Leyland is successful.

Mr. Clark

I always enjoy the hon. Gentleman's questions. He rather lost his way, I suspect deliberately, in that question, but I shall answer the first part of it.

Of course my Department plays its part in encouraging exports, and both the companies cited by my hon. Friend the Member for Basildon (Mr. Amess) have been active and successful in exporting. The new changes in emphasis announced by my right hon. and learned Friend are specifically directed towards encouraging and assisting exports by smaller firms, where we think the greatest potential lies, rather than the large firms about which the hon. Member for Bradford, South (Mr. Cryer) is so concerned.

Mr. Conway

Will my hon. Friend and some of his staff of 730 look at the help, advice and encouragement given to firms that are not in big city areas, which are often covered by chambers of commerce and trade and the like, but are perhaps in small rural areas, and enable them to take part in international trade fairs?

Mr. Clark

That is very important and it is one reason why, under the new arrangements, a further 60 members of staff of the Department are going into the regions. The British Overseas Trade Board has an active and effective role to play in assisting small companies to attend trade fairs and exhibitions abroad. If my hon. Friend has any specific cases that he wishes to raise with me, I shall, of course, closely follow them up.

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