Exports

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 7:01 pm on 3rd May 1995.

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Photo of Ken Purchase Ken Purchase , Wolverhampton North East 7:01 pm, 3rd May 1995

I always accept your decisions, Mr. Deputy Speaker, but without good health it is difficult to hold down a good job, and without being properly educated one almost certainly will not get a job at all. Unless people have a roof over their heads, their health will deteriorate and they will not be able to go to work anyway.

We now have the worst housing crisis that people can remember. In my constituency, waiting lists for council houses are the longest for 25 years. I treat all those matters as relevant to what we ought to be able to see, feel and touch as a result of the wealth-creating activities of our companies. Nevertheless I shall move on, Mr. Deputy Speaker, because clearly you are not comfortable when I raise such subjects. Personally, I consider that they are of the utmost importance.

What is the prescription for exports? I shall join in the praise of the Minister for Trade. Everywhere I go, industrialists and factory owners say, "He is a good chap, that Needham. He is energetic and he knows what it is all about. He is having a go, and it is a good performance." I simply qualify that praise by saying that the Minister did not have much of an act to follow. By the way, we shall not keep him on after the general election; we shall have someone else. However, there is no doubt that we can see the difference between a Government who are committed to our industrial export effort and a Government who are not—and the Minister is a wonderful improvement on what we saw before.

However, let us examine the real position. We have had to run to stay still. World trade has expanded by more than 8 per cent., yet the expansion in British exports has also been just above 8 per cent.; we have merely managed to hold our own. More effort is required. The French, for instance, are bringing people from all over the world to their country to see what they have to offer. Perhaps we should think about copying that.

We must keep the role of the Export Credits Guarantee Department under review. In many cases it does a good job, but we must be prepared to take more risks in countries where trade is beginning to open up. The Minister may know that I have recently returned from Latin America, where we did a little arithmetic on the ECGD and found that it was less adventurous than may be called for at this stage.