Opposition Day — [15th Allotted Day] — Trade, Exports, Innovation and Productivity

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 4:09 pm on 13th January 2016.

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Photo of Kwasi Kwarteng Kwasi Kwarteng Conservative, Spelthorne 4:09 pm, 13th January 2016

I am happy to announce, Madam Deputy Speaker, that I shall not speak for 24 minutes, unlike George Kerevan. I am, however, very pleased to follow the hon. Gentleman, who made a very interesting speech. You will be glad to know, Madam Deputy Speaker, that I did not agree with everything he said. I thought that some aspects of his speech were wrong. Although his points were made in the right spirit, some of his conclusions were wrong.

Let me begin by registering my own interest in the debate. My constituency is a hub of local business and private enterprise. Indeed, Staines was the number one area for business start-ups last year, and we wish to continue that tradition and record of achievement.

During this interesting and important debate, a number of Members have spoken about the need for an industrial policy or strategy, without, in my view, spelling out the details of what such a strategy would be. Yes, it is true that we could be doing better with exports, and it is certainly true that we could be increasing, or trying to increase, our productivity; but the general remarks that Members have made have not been fleshed out with concrete proposals. I make one exception: my hon. Friend Geoffrey Clifton-Brown did come up with some concrete suggestions and interesting points about the Government’s role in UK Trade & Investment, and about the function of UKTI.

What I want to focus on, however, is the general economic context. The hon. Member for East Lothian said that, across the eurozone, the current account figures had improved. He suggested that that was largely a consequence of increased exports, but those of us who followed what went on in the eurozone will know that those countries had drastic fiscal consolidations, in the course of which they killed off domestic demand. They tipped their economies into recession, and, as everyone knows, if an economy is in recession, imports will fall considerably.