Export Target

Business and Trade – in the House of Commons at on 2 May 2024.

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Photo of Desmond Swayne Desmond Swayne Conservative, New Forest West

What progress she has made on helping businesses to reach her target level of exports.

Photo of Andrew Jones Andrew Jones Chair, European Statutory Instruments Committee, Chair, European Statutory Instruments Committee

What progress she has made on supporting businesses to reach £1 trillion in annual exports.

Photo of Kemi Badenoch Kemi Badenoch Minister of State (Housing, Communities and Local Government), Minister of State (Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office), Minister for Women and Equalities, Secretary of State for Business and Trade, President of the Board of Trade, Minister for Women and Equalities

UK exports were £862 billion in the 12 months to February. UK services exports reached a record £472 billion in the same period, which is an increase of 10%—they went up by £42 billion. Businesses, including small and medium-sized enterprises, can access my Department’s wealth of export support at great.gov.uk. That support includes the UK Export Academy, which has had more than 18,000 registrations; our 160 international trade advisers, who help about 6,000 SMEs each year; and 388 export champions, across every part of the UK.

Photo of Desmond Swayne Desmond Swayne Conservative, New Forest West

Are we really the fourth largest exporter in the world?

Photo of Kemi Badenoch Kemi Badenoch Minister of State (Housing, Communities and Local Government), Minister of State (Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office), Minister for Women and Equalities, Secretary of State for Business and Trade, President of the Board of Trade, Minister for Women and Equalities

I am pleased to tell my right hon. Friend that we are. There are many, many more good statistics, which he will find in the publication my Department produced at the end of January; it contains further good news stories on UK exports. The UK is a global exporting superpower and the world’s second biggest services exporter. Services exports to the European Union are at a record high and have increased by 36% since 2018.

Photo of Andrew Jones Andrew Jones Chair, European Statutory Instruments Committee, Chair, European Statutory Instruments Committee

My right hon. Friend has just detailed very encouraging data, much of which results from the hard work of SMEs. Will she give a bit more information about what support is available specifically to SMEs to help them grow and export more of their products and services?

Photo of Kemi Badenoch Kemi Badenoch Minister of State (Housing, Communities and Local Government), Minister of State (Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office), Minister for Women and Equalities, Secretary of State for Business and Trade, President of the Board of Trade, Minister for Women and Equalities

The Department has declared this year the year of the SME. People often hear news that sounds as though it is just about big business, but SMEs employ most of the people in the UK. We have a network of 160 international trade advisers and our export support services. We have also put in place schemes such as a Help to Grow management course, which 5,290 participants had completed by November. We also have a business support service, which provides support to about 30,000 people in England every year.

Photo of Gerald Jones Gerald Jones Shadow Minister (Wales), Opposition Whip (Commons), Shadow Minister (Scotland)

Further to those comments about SMEs, in the light of the termination of the trade show access programme, which supported SMEs in gaining international market exposure, what is the Government’s strategy to provide equivalent or enhanced support to ensure UK food products remain competitive within EU markets?

Photo of Kemi Badenoch Kemi Badenoch Minister of State (Housing, Communities and Local Government), Minister of State (Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office), Minister for Women and Equalities, Secretary of State for Business and Trade, President of the Board of Trade, Minister for Women and Equalities

We know that a lot of people are disappointed that we closed the trade show programme, but it was a pilot programme and it did not yield the business successes that we had hoped. We are investing in those things that are providing success and demonstrating real benefits. The UK Export Academy is one of them, along with the export support service, as I mentioned, and the international trade advisers. Many of them will have expertise in food and drink. If the hon. Gentleman writes to us with a specific case, we will be happy to help.

Photo of Gareth Thomas Gareth Thomas Shadow Minister (International Trade)

Unfortunately for Government Members, and more importantly for the country, the Office for Budget Responsibility’s recent figures, which I know the Secretary of State struggles with, show that exports have dropped on her watch and are set to have declined again this year. If she has a moment to spare from her leadership campaign, she might read the landmark report published by Aston University last week on the significant boost for British exports that a veterinary agreement could deliver through British farmers and the agrifood industry. Why will she not pursue an agreement that is so obviously in Britain’s national interest?

Photo of Kemi Badenoch Kemi Badenoch Minister of State (Housing, Communities and Local Government), Minister of State (Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office), Minister for Women and Equalities, Secretary of State for Business and Trade, President of the Board of Trade, Minister for Women and Equalities

The OBR puts out lots of figures and the Opposition cherry-pick the ones they think will be most helpful, thinking that we have not done our homework. I encourage the hon. Member to look at the OBR forecasts for growth for this country, which are very high, and I ask him which specific period he is referring to. He should look at what has happened to exports overall, not just periods including covid, which explain why we have had some drops in food exports.

Photo of Gareth Thomas Gareth Thomas Shadow Minister (International Trade)

I asked the Secretary of State about the veterinary agreement; I suspect no one on the Opposition Benches will be surprised that she has not shown any interest in a trade agreement that would help British farmers. According to the House of Commons Library, under the last Labour Government exports rose by 55%, but since then exports have risen by only 32%. Is the truth not that British exporters always do better under a Labour Government?

Photo of Kemi Badenoch Kemi Badenoch Minister of State (Housing, Communities and Local Government), Minister of State (Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office), Minister for Women and Equalities, Secretary of State for Business and Trade, President of the Board of Trade, Minister for Women and Equalities

That is absolute rubbish. It is not true. The veterinary agreement that he is talking about would create dynamic alignment with the EU, which is not what this country voted for in 2016. We are delivering what the people voted for. Yes, there will be difficulties—we are sorting them out. It is time that the Opposition moved on and accepted the will of the people.