Increasing the volume and reach of British exports is at the heart of the Department’s export strategy. It includes a comprehensive set of support for exporters, combined with seeking trade deals in the areas of greatest opportunity internationally.
Tourism to the UK is our third-largest service export. I am sure the Minister, or at least the Secretary of State, will agree that the north-east is a fantastic place to visit and that we want to encourage visitors. In September 2020, the Government ended the VAT retail export scheme and the VAT shopping airside sales concession for airports, such as Newcastle airport. With the majority of visits including shopping as part of the trip, including shopping in Newcastle Metrocentre and, no doubt, Berwick, what discussions is the Minister having with the Treasury on that anomaly?
I assure the hon. Lady that it is not just the Secretary of State but the Exports Minister who agrees about the potential of the tourism economy. We on the Government Benches will do everything we can to make the most of that opportunity, just as we are with freeports, which we are able to establish by being outside the EU. I note that one of those freeports is in the north-east.
I welcome the Exports Minister to his place. I hope he will join his Front-Bench colleagues, both past and present, who have on many occasions come to Sedgefield to visit our outstanding export businesses. At last week’s Great Yorkshire show, I met Billy Maughan, one of my local farmers, and other members of the National Farmers Union, who talked to me about the opportunities from deals such as the India deal. It would be great if he could meet them to explore those opportunities further.
My hon. Friend is a doughty champion for all sorts of businesses in Sedgefield, including his local farmer. I would be very happy to arrange to meet him and Billy and continue what is clearly a tradition.
There is a concern among businesses that unlike its predecessor, the trade access programme, the current trade show programme will support a company only if it is exhibiting for the first time or venturing into new markets. We all know that marketing for export requires repeated efforts. There is evidence that there is now a drop in the number of UK exhibitors in some sectors, just when the Government are struggling to stimulate growth in the UK economy. Will the Minister now listen to businesses hoping to export, make the scheme more generous and widen the access criteria to allow businesses to benefit from the support by attending more than once?
As we seek to get more businesses exporting, the first step is clearly often the hardest, so it seems thoroughly reasonable to put the highest amount of support into helping businesses make that first step outside the UK. The trade show programme supports over 128 different overseas trade shows across 28 different markets. I will listen to the hon. Lady, and I have been meeting business organisations in my first few days in this role. We will make sure that the trade show programme, which is a great example of the Department supporting British businesses, remains fully supported.