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Manufacturing Exports

19. Mr. Barry Jones (Alyn and Deeside): If he will make a statement on the means by which his Department assists UK manufacturing industry's exports. [40510]

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Mr. Derek Fatchett): On 25 March I, together with colleagues from the Department of Trade and Industry, launched a new package of measures that is based on the recommendations of the export forum to help exporters. We have also launched the ambassadors for British business scheme and a programme of short-term attachments of business people to our overseas posts. Those projects are helping to make the Foreign Office more businesslike and to focus on the needs of our customers. The new schemes are in addition to the wide range of assistance that is provided to British companies by our global network of 217 commercial posts in 140 markets.

Mr. Jones: I am grateful to my hon. Friend for that comprehensive reply. Will he please continue to use the full resources of his Department to assist the British aerospace industry abroad?

Mr. Fatchett: I am happy to give that commitment to my hon. Friend. He has been a true champion of the industry during his years in the House of Commons, and his constituents know the valuable role that he has played in that respect. That is why his majority has increased at every successive election.

Mr. Jonathan Sayeed (Mid-Bedfordshire): The Minister will be aware that General Motors was thinking of withdrawing its investment from Vauxhall in Luton. Is he aware that Vauxhall cited as one of the reasons the high value of the pound?

Mr. Fatchett: The hon. Gentleman establishes his question on a false assumption and hypothesis, so I will not answer it. Vauxhall is still with us. We look forward to it staying with us because it is an important inward investor in Britain and has a good reputation.

Mr. Barry Sheerman (Huddersfield): Will my hon. Friend ensure not just that resources are moved around in our efforts to increase British exports, including British manufacturing exports, but that there is a real percentage increase in the resources that are devoted to that important task? Does he agree that if British Airways flew throughout the world using not only Boeing jets powered

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by Rolls-Royce engines, but the airbus, which has a larger percentage of British-manufactured components, we should have a good ambassador for British products?

Mr. Fatchett: The export forum report recommended that we should concentrate our additional resources for export promotion on a number of priority markets. We aim to do that, and to ensure we have a more driven commercial response to the needs of those particular markets and the companies that operate in them, so my hon. Friend can be assured that additional resources, as and when they become available, will be used in that way. He is right, of course, to talk about the successes of the British aerospace industry. Rolls-Royce and the airbus are fine examples of British technology and British engineering.

Defence Staff Attachments

20. Mr. Nicholas Soames (Mid-Sussex): What discussions he has had with the Secretary of State for Defence on the attachment of Ministry of Defence staff to embassies. [40511]

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Mr. Tony Lloyd): My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary has not discussed that matter directly with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence, but our two Departments remain in close contact on all aspects of such attachments.

Mr. Soames: In the past few weeks, hon. Members will have seen the importance of steady, sensible military advice to the Foreign Office. Does the hon. Gentleman agree that it is important that more officials from the Foreign Office do attachments to departments in the Ministry of Defence, and that more service men and women in the MOD go to the Foreign Office? Does he agree that that is one of the most important ways in which to encourage the vital understanding that should exist between those two Departments and that, although there are some moves to that end, there should be many more?

Mr. Lloyd: There is no doubt about the valuable role that service attaches play throughout the world. The co-ordination between the two Departments responsible--the Foreign Office and the Ministry of Defence--is close because they both recognise that that is important. In the context of the hon. Gentleman's original, perhaps less charitable, point, I thought that he might have taken the opportunity to congratulate the defence adviser who was based in Accra, but attached non-residentially to Sierra Leone, who was decorated for his valiant service at the time of the evacuation of British people and others whom Britain helped. That would have been a fitting tribute to that important role and perhaps more fitting to the tone of the later question.


23. Mr. Andy King (Rugby and Kenilworth): If he will make a statement on UK relations with Algeria. [40514]

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Mr. Derek Fatchett): The UK maintains a broad-based dialogue with Algeria, at both political and

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senior official levels. We remain deeply concerned about the continuing violence there and believe that dialogue offers the best chance of contributing to an improvement in the situation. As we hold the presidency of the European Union, we co-ordinate our position on Algeria with our partners, who share our commitment to dialogue. As part of that process, earlier this year, I led an EU mission to Algeria.

Mr. King: I thank my hon. Friend for that reply. Does he agree that the price of victory and the power struggle in Algeria is being paid for with the bodies of innocent women and children?

Mr. Fatchett: I am sure that every hon. Member shares the view, expressed by my hon. Friend, that every loss of life is one too many. Algeria has suffered great human loss in the past few months and years, and we need to ensure that it is brought to an end. If the United Kingdom and the European Union can contribute to the political dialogue to achieve that objective, we shall do so.

We should also like there to be, internally, much greater openness, transparency and respect for human rights in Algeria, which is why both the European Union and the United Kingdom have been trying to persuade the Algerian Government that there is a need for the Algerians to invite in United Nations special rapporteurs. I am sure that it would be in the interests of us all, including the Algerians, to ensure that there is such openness, and that we have a full record of what happens internally within Algeria.


25. Mr. Ben Chapman (Wirral, South): What assessment he has made of the progress of the Turkish economy in recent years and its attractiveness to UK investors and exporters. [40516]

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Mr. Derek Fatchett): In recent years, Turkey has become a key market for British companies. In 1997, two-way trade between the United Kingdom and Turkey reached a new record of £2.8 billion. British exports to Turkey alone amounted to £1.76 billion, which was an increase of 13 per cent. on 1996. However, there is still potential to increase bilateral trade further. To that end, on 25 June, my noble Friend the Minister for Trade, Lord Clinton-Davis, will launch a target market campaign to promote the opportunities that the Turkish market offers.

Mr. Chapman: I thank my hon. Friend for that answer. Is he aware that the Turkish CBI and--during its recent visit--the Anglo-Turkish Business Council have confirmed that the investment climate for British firms in Turkey is increasingly attractive? Does he also agree that trade and investment are but one part of an important bilateral relationship, and that the value of that relationship is such that it makes the Luxembourg decision look ever more disappointing?

Mr. Fatchett: We seek a full and rounded relationship with Turkey, involving both trade and a political dialogue. As part of building that relationship, we have made it clear that we should like Turkey to be engaged in the European process and involved in future discussions on European Union enlargement.

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Sierra Leone

3.31 pm

Mr. Michael Howard (Folkestone and Hythe) (by private notice): To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs whether he will make a statement on the supply of armaments to Sierra Leone in the light of the Prime Minister's statements on the outcome of events there.

The Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr. Robin Cook): As I reminded the House last week, President Kabbah, the democratically elected leader of Sierra Leone, was deposed in a military coup in 1997. Britain continued to recognise President Kabbah as the legitimate Head of Government of Sierra Leone, and Britain played a leading part at the United Nations in drafting the Security Council resolution calling for the peaceful restoration of constitutional government.

The peaceful restoration of President Kabbah remained the sole policy of Her Majesty's Government. [Interruption.] My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister demonstrated our continuing support for President Kabbah by inviting him to attend the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting in October--[Interruption.]

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