Queen’s Speech debate: MP welcomes increase in UK exports to new growth markets
17th May 2012
Alok Sharma welcomes measures in the Queen’s speech to further reduce regulation for business and welcomes the focus on exports to new growth markets such as India and China and the creation of British jobs from inward investment from these countries.
Alok Sharma (Reading West) (Con): In the lead up to the general election, I spent a lot of time talking to business owners and managers in my constituency and their verdict, after 13 years of Labour government, was that they felt that business was over-taxed, overburdened by regulation and overstretched by ever-growing tax legislation. Many businesses felt that the previous Government were on their backs, not on their side, stifling their growth, not encouraging it and limiting their job creation, not expanding it. In contrast, we have seen from the coalition a raft of policies that are laying firm foundations for sustainable future growth, cutting corporation tax to the lowest level in the G7, cutting red tape and simplifying our tax system. New Bills, such as the enterprise and regulatory reform Bill, will go further in reducing burdens on business by repealing unnecessary legislation.
I want to focus on exports and inward investment. Economic uncertainty in the eurozone will undoubtedly impact on our exports, but as many hon. Members have pointed out, our exports outside Europe have recently been growing. That is where our export opportunities lie in the short, medium and long term: exports to new growth markets such as India and China.
A few weeks ago in departmental questions, I asked the Business Secretary about our bilateral trade with India. He informed the House that he would shortly be leaving to take a delegation of small and medium-sized enterprises to India, pointing out that this was his third trip to India since May 2010. That caused some amusement among Opposition Members, suggesting, I assume, that they thought the Secretary of State was off on some sort of jaunt. That is exactly the sort of attitude that demonstrates why the Labour party does not get business and does not understand what is needed to grow our exports. Business is not won by sitting and whingeing from the Opposition Benches. In a global marketplace, if one is fighting for global contracts against global competitors one needs to sell and market across the world. I am rather pleased that we have Ministers across many Departments getting on planes and batting for British business abroad.
According to statistics from the Library, in 2000 the UK was the third-largest source of imports for India. By 2010, after 10 years of Labour government, that ranking had dropped to 22nd. The absolute level of bilateral trade has gone up, but not fast enough. Given our shared democratic values, history, language and cultural and family ties, there is much to suggest that we should have been doing a lot better on bilateral trade. I am very pleased that the UK aims to double bilateral trade with India by 2015, but given the slow-down elsewhere we might need to be even more ambitious. We are making progress and the Indian companies that I speak to see the UK as being open for business with a Government who welcome inward investment. British jobs are being created by inward investment from Indian companies, whether household names such as Tata or Infosys or less well-known but no less important companies such as Mastek, which has its UK headquarters in Reading and supplies IT solutions to the public and private sectors. Time is short, but I want to mention education, which is a huge growth area in India. British universities are highly respected, which again presents a great export opportunity.
Finally, I note that UK Trade & Investment has been doing an absolutely fantastic job and has really upped its game. Its contribution is appreciated by British exporters and companies in my constituency. We often talk about special relationships with other countries but in future we also need to talk about essential trade relations with certain nations. I hope that our bilateral trade will grow.