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Exports (SMEs)

Oral Answers to Questions — Business, Innovation and Skills – in the House of Commons at 9:30 am on 10th April 2014.

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Photo of Julian Smith Julian Smith Conservative, Skipton and Ripon 9:30 am, 10th April 2014

What steps he is taking to help small and medium-sized businesses to export.

Photo of Tony Baldry Tony Baldry The Second Church Estates Commissioner

What steps he is taking to help small and medium-sized businesses to export.

Photo of Matthew Hancock Matthew Hancock The Minister for Universities and Science, Minister of State (Department for Business, Innovation and Skills) (Jointly with the Department for Education)

Last year, we supported more than £4 billion of export finance, which is more than in any other year for a decade. This week, we announced additional funding to enable UKTI to support 3,000 more medium-sized businesses.

Photo of Julian Smith Julian Smith Conservative, Skipton and Ripon

Following the question from my hon. Friend Philip Davies, will the Minister agree that the best way to exploit emerging markets is often through EU free trade agreements? In the light of that, will he support the all-party parliamentary group on European Union-United States trade and investment to ensure that small and micro businesses are front and centre in the proposed free trade agreement with America?

Photo of Matthew Hancock Matthew Hancock The Minister for Universities and Science, Minister of State (Department for Business, Innovation and Skills) (Jointly with the Department for Education)

I am a strong supporter of the transatlantic trade and investment partnership. The trade deal between the EU and Canada is a big step forward and provides a basis on which we can build TTIP. The involvement of small businesses in TTIP will provide them with extremely valuable support in creating jobs.

Photo of Tony Baldry Tony Baldry The Second Church Estates Commissioner

We have some excellent exporters in north Oxfordshire, such as Norbar Torque, E. P. Barrus, Crompton Technology and Prodrive to name but a few. Those companies generate jobs themselves and through the contracts that they give to local SMEs. What is my hon. Friend doing to support SMEs in the export supply chain?

Photo of Matthew Hancock Matthew Hancock The Minister for Universities and Science, Minister of State (Department for Business, Innovation and Skills) (Jointly with the Department for Education)

Across the Department, we work to support supply chains. Specifically, UKTI’s high value opportunities programme targets 100 projects that are based globally. That programme supports not just the primes, but their supply chains in Oxfordshire and across the country.

Photo of Barry Gardiner Barry Gardiner Shadow Minister (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)

One area of export growth has been in recyclate of glass and plastics. Unfortunately, that has had a perverse effect because the packaging recovery note system, which is supposed to direct money into the creation of infrastructure for our own recycling industry, has been denied the feedstock that the industry needs if it is to grow. Will the Minister look at what more he can do to expand our recycling industry, rather than export it?

Photo of Matthew Hancock Matthew Hancock The Minister for Universities and Science, Minister of State (Department for Business, Innovation and Skills) (Jointly with the Department for Education)

I would be delighted to speak to the hon. Gentleman to understand more about the packaging recycling industry and to see whether we can tackle that problem.

Photo of Russell Brown Russell Brown Shadow Minister (Scotland)

If we are to grow the economy and increase exports, we need to ensure that there is support for SMEs. In the last quarter, net lending to small and medium-sized enterprises fell by more then £1 billion. When will Ministers get a grip and start backing our wealth creators to take on employees and develop greater opportunities for exports?

Photo of Matthew Hancock Matthew Hancock The Minister for Universities and Science, Minister of State (Department for Business, Innovation and Skills) (Jointly with the Department for Education)

Of course, the economy is growing, jobs are being created and the amount of gross lending is rising, but we are recovering from an extremely difficult situation. We all know what the causes of that were, and many of them came from those on the Labour Front Bench. Turning around our economy to support small businesses, whether through access to finance, support for exports, which are going up, or otherwise, is the Government’s central task. It is a huge job, because we were left in a huge hole.

Photo of David Heath David Heath Liberal Democrat, Somerton and Frome

It is absolutely essential that we encourage more small and medium-sized businesses to export, but does the Minister agree that the term “SMEs” is often unhelpful? There is a huge difference between the needs of medium-sized and small businesses, and between the range of small businesses, from the largest to single proprietor? Will he recognise those differences and tailor accordingly?

Photo of Matthew Hancock Matthew Hancock The Minister for Universities and Science, Minister of State (Department for Business, Innovation and Skills) (Jointly with the Department for Education)

I strongly support my hon. Friend. In fact, as part of our long-term economic plan I am trying to banish the term “SMEs” and instead use “small businesses”. A business with, say, 10 employees is very different from a business with 249 employees, so an end to the acronym “SME” would be a valuable step forward.