Trade & Industry Committee

Session 2006-07

4 June 2007



MPs call for Treasury to stop meddling with UKTI and warn about wasteful and confusing RDA offices overseas

The Trade and Industry Committee today publishes its report Marketing UK plc-UKTI’s five-year strategy.

The Committee notes the important role the government body UK Trade & Investment (UKTI) plays in promoting the UK as a destination for foreign investment and supporting current and aspiring UK exporters. It broadly supports the new strategy, and also commends the organisation’s successful record in attracting high-value foreign business to the UK.

However, the Committee concludes that UKTI has undergone too many organisational and strategic changes in recent years.

The Committee is concerned that the outcome of the 2007 Spending Review negotiations and the anticipated machinery of government changes resulting from the entrance of a new Prime Minister, may lead to further damaging upheaval for UKTI. Although only four years old, the organisation has had no less than three separate strategies since its creation.

The Committee says,

“If UKTI is to have a chance of successfully implementing its current strategy, the Government, and in particular HM Treasury, must refrain from further adjusting the priorities and structure of the organisation, and allow it to get on with doing its job.”

The Committee is also very concerned about the overseas presence of the English Regional Development Agencies and the broader co-ordination of the work of these agencies with UKTI.

UKTI provides around £15 million a year to the RDAs to conduct their own inward investment promotion activities, as part of the Government’s economic policy to reduce disparities between the regions.

All bar one of the RDAs are currently represented in the US, and seven in Australia and Japan-competing against each other for inward investment. In the Committee’s view, this is confusing to foreign investors, detrimental to the ‘UK brand’ and potentially a waste of taxpayers’ money.

The Committee was also surprised to learn that the current profusion of RDA representation abroad had taken place with Ministerial approval as, according to evidence from UKTI, the Trade Minister himself must sign-off the opening of an office overseas. The decision to permit these regional offices seems bizarre, given the level of criticism about them the Committee heard from all quarters of British industry.

Committee Chairman Peter Luff MP, commented:

“UKTI does a valuable and commendable job, especially given that it has been struggling with multiple changes in strategy imposed from on high. It must be left to get on with this job. The Government must also address urgently the role of the Regional Development Agencies. There is confusion about who is actually responsible for trade promotion, and an extraordinary situation when it comes to offices abroad, which are competing with each other, confusing investors and wasting taxpayers’ money.”

Peter Luff is available to discuss the report on 07921 039870. For any other media inquiries call Laura Humble, Select Committee Media Officer, on 0207 2192003/ 07917 488489

1. The title of the Committee report is “Marketing UK Plc - UKTI’s five-year strategy.” (HC 557)
2. Embargoed hard copies of the report will be available from the House of Commons Press Gallery and the reception of 7 Millbank, London SW1P 3JA from 11:00 hrs Monday 4th June, 2007.
3. Media bids/request for interviews with the Chairman should be directed to Laura Humble on 020 7219 2003/ 07917 488489.
4. For detailed information the Trade and Industry Committee can be contacted on 020 7219 5777/5779.

Committee Membership is as follows: Peter Luff MP (Chairman), Roger Berry MP, Mr Brian Binley MP, Mr Peter Bone, Mr Michael Clapham MP, Mrs Claire Curtis-Thomas MP, Mr Lindsay Hoyle MP, Mr Mark Hunter MP, Miss Julie Kirkbride MP, Judy Mallaber MP, Rob Marris MP, Anne Moffatt, Mr Mike Weir MP, Mr Anthony Wright MP