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4 February 2009 (PN 17)



Lord Jones to give evidence

A new inquiry by the Business and Enterprise Committee will ask what the best opportunities are for exporters in our current economic difficulties and whether the Government is doing enough to help UK businesses grasp them.

GDP fell by 0.6% in the three months from July-September 2008, and by 1.5%, the steepest quarterly drop since 1980, between October and December 2008. The value of the pound has fallen from nearly 2 dollars in January 2008 to roughly 1.3 dollars.

WTO statistics for 2007 show that the UK was the second largest exporter of services, after the US and the eighth largest exporter of merchandise. It is well known that the United Kingdom has had a strong position in the financial and service industries; it is less often appreciated that much of British engineering and manufacturing industry is also world class. The UK is the world's sixth largest manufacturer by output.

Exporting companies contribute hugely to our economy. Not only do exporters have higher productivity than non-exporters to start with, exporting can increase a firm's productivity still further.

The relative strengths of different sectors may well be affected by changed economic circumstances. The Government has announced measures to support exporters by increasing the resources available for export credit guarantees for smaller companies. In recent speeches and events the Trade Secretary, Lord Mandelson, has spoken of "industrial activism", identifying and nurturing the areas where the UK has a competitive advantage.

In 2006 UKTI launched its Five-Year Strategy : Prosperity in a Changing World. The Trade and Industry recommended that UKTI be given stability to achieve that strategy, and the Business and Enterprise Committee begins from the assumption that this remains desirable. Nonetheless, circumstances have changed, and it seems right to ask if any changes to the UKTI strategy are necessary.

The Committee now asks: What should be done to sustain and increase Britain's export strengths? Is there more the Government or UKTI could do to support exporters, to identify key sectors or to reprioritise markets?

As the first step in the inquiry, the Committee will be taking evidence from Lord Jones of Birmingham, former Minister for Trade, at 2.30 pm on Monday 23rd February in Committee Room 6 in the Palace of Westminster.

The Committee would welcome written evidence before Monday 20 April 2009. Details on how to submit written evidence can be found here: or can be sent by Committee staff.

Further Information:

Committee membership is as follows:

Chairman: Peter Luff MP (Con) (Mid Worcestershire)
Mr Adrian Bailey (Lab) (West Bromwich West)
Roger Berry (Lab) (Kingswood)
Mr Brian Binley (Con) (Northampton South)
Mr Michael Clapham (Lab) (Barnsley West and Pen.)
Mr Lindsay Hoyle (Lab) (Chorley)
Miss Julie Kirkbride (Con) (Bromsgrove)
Anne Moffat (Lab) (East Lothian)
Mark Oaten (Lib Dem) (Winchester)
Lembit Öpik (Lib Dem) (Montgomeryshire)
Mr Anthony Wright (Lab) (Great Yarmouth)

Media Enquiries: Laura Humble, Tel 0207 219 2003/ 07917 488 489, email: humb
Specific Committee Information: Tel 020 7219 5777, email: