asked the President of the Board of Trade if he is aware that small British firms are at a disadvantage with their foreign competitors in the export market arising from a lack of credit facilities; if he will examine this matter; and if he will make a statement.
My right hon. Friend is satisfied that the credit facilities available to small British firms compare well with foreign facilities, and can enable credit-worthy firms to undertake any export orders within their capacity.
Will the hon. Gentleman look at the case, details of which have been sent to his Department, in which a British firm with capital assets of £10,000 earned a £250,000 export order but could not get the banks to give credit or the Export Credits Guarantee Department to underwrite it and, therefore, lost the order to West Germany. All the continental countries are able to give, and do give, these credit facilities. Will he look into this matter again? The papers are in his Department. Neither his Department nor the Treasury were able to do anything to help this firm.
I am aware of the case. The hon. Member must draw a distinction between the ability of a company to trade within its own resources or to use the normal banking facilities to increase capital assets with which to do more trade than it is already doing and the actual extension of State credit facilities. There is no evidence in my possession which suggests that State facilities in foreign countries, as opposed to banking facilities, are better than or even as good as the State facilities provided here.
The Earl of Dalkeith:
When considering this Question, will my hon. Friend bear in mind that the increase in postal charges on parcels is discouraging certain small firms from continuing with exports and that it is just possible that a review of or assistance with credit facilities may tip the scales in favour of their continuing to export?