Budget Resolutions and Economic Situation — Amendment of the Law

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 5:59 pm on 25th March 2013.

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Photo of Alok Sharma Alok Sharma Conservative, Reading West 5:59 pm, 25th March 2013

Thanks to the measures taken by this Government, the deficit is coming down, we have record employment and interest rates are at record lows. I would have thought the hon. Gentleman would welcome all those things, just as businesses in my constituency do.

The Chancellor made the point in his Budget statement that for the first time in more than two decades we are exporting more goods to non-EU countries than to EU ones, and I welcome that. Mr Darling, for whom I have huge respect, said that there is no growth, but, as he well knows, there is growth; we are expanding our exports to some of the world’s key economies, which is a result of the policies that this Government have put in place and of the good work being done by UK Trade & Investment and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

Small and medium-sized businesses still tell us that there is a fear factor when they are looking to enter new markets. UKTI and the FCO have been great at targeting high-growth nations and opening new offices, but we need to turbo-charge that expansion. We need not only to target three, four or five cities in these huge economies such as India and Indonesia, but to go into the 15 or 20 top tier 1 and tier 2 cities. In those economies it is not only the national Governments who make decisions; the state governments make many of the big decisions on investment, which is why we need to turbo-charge our approach and get these offices across these countries quickly. The Government, together with UKTI, should provide practical help by taking on office space in these key cities, basing sector experts from the UK Government and UKTI there, and working with local enterprise partnerships to get out there and allow SMEs low-cost desk and office space for three, six or 12 months. The synergies that will be created as a result of all these companies coming together in one location, with sector focus and where we can also get local advisers involved, will do a huge amount to boost our exports. We want to go from having one in five SMEs exporting to having one in four, which is the European average. That will add billions of GDP to our economy. UKTI is doing a great job with the headstart scheme, but we need to build on such initiatives.

The final point I wish to make is about the local Labour party in Reading—