Previous SectionIndexHome Page

Overseas Trade (EU)

11. Mr. Win Griffiths (Bridgend): If he will make a statement on Britain's trade within the EU. [133899]

The Minister for Trade (Mr. Richard Caborn): The EU is the most important market for UK exports of goods and services and accounts for over 50 per cent. of total UK exports. The EU is also a major source of imports, which widens consumer choice, improves value for money and provides essential components that are then used for exports.

Mr. Griffiths: In thanking my right hon. Friend for his answer, may I ask him to congratulate all those involved in providing exports of goods and services, in which we are moving into a position of strength? Will he confirm that about 3 million British jobs are involved, and will he give further information on a standard planning region basis--in particular, on Wales?

Mr. Caborn: My hon. Friend is absolutely right to say that about 3 million jobs are linked directly and indirectly to exports of goods and services to the EU. I do not have with me the statistics that he requires, but shall provide the information in writing and place it in the Library.

Mr. Eric Forth (Bromley and Chislehurst): With how many countries outside the EU is there a favourable trade agreement?

Mr. Caborn: There are a number of favourable trade agreements with countries outside the EU, as the right hon. Gentleman knows. The EU does not debar this country from having trade agreements with other countries, and we are effective in making favourable agreements outside the EU.

Mr. Bill Rammell (Harlow): Given that we undertake three times as much trade within the EU as we do with the United States of America, does the Minister agree that it would be contrary to our national interest to join the

2 Nov 2000 : Column 833

North American Free Trade Agreement? Does he agree that joining NAFTA would require us to leave the EU, and why does he think the Conservative party are now proposing that?

Mr. Caborn: That is like a number of other red herrings that the Opposition trail across the political spectrum from time to time. When the matter raised by my hon. Friend was studied by the International Trade Commission in Washington, some interesting remarks were made. In a discussion of the UK's possible membership of NAFTA, which had been suggested by some Opposition Members, the ITC said that it would be insignificant for trade, as well as being a political non-starter. That description probably applies to the Opposition as well.


12. Mr. Stephen O'Brien (Eddisbury): What plans he has to encourage the private sector to intensify its preparations for membership of the euro. [133900]

The Minister for Energy and Competitiveness in Europe (Mrs. Helen Liddell): The second national changeover plan was published in March 2000.

Mr. O'Brien: The Secretary of State, and now the Minister, have failed miserably to answer the unambiguous questions put by my hon. Friend the Member for Sevenoaks (Mr. Fallon) and subsequently by my hon. Friend the Member for Rutland and Melton (Mr. Duncan). Given that the Department and Ministers have a prime responsibility to account to the House for the expenditure of taxpayers' money, will the Minister identify exactly how much has been allocated in the DTI budget for the expenditure of taxpayers' money on the changeover plan for the private sector, whether to support it or directly to subsidise it? Exactly when does expenditure start--or when is the private sector being advised that it will start--in support of the Labour Government's attempts to scrap the pound?

Mrs. Liddell: The hon. Gentleman should be aware that the Department's priority at the moment is to ensure that British industry at all levels is able to trade with the eurozone countries, given that the euro is a reality in those countries. To that end, in September I announced the "3 Es" campaign, which concentrates on practical advice on electronic commerce, the euro and exports. The total cost of that campaign is £100,000. It involves the production of 50,000 CD-ROMs and seminars throughout the country, and has been much welcomed by the business community.

Mr. Peter L. Pike (Burnley): Is it not a fact that in areas of the country that depend heavily on the manufacturing sector, large manufacturers are already trading and dealing in the euro? They have to do so if they want to survive in the European market.

Mrs. Liddell: Sensible and prudent businesses are making the necessary arrangements to seize competitive

2 Nov 2000 : Column 834

advantage in dealing with the euro--and they are not in any way dissuaded from doing that by Opposition Members' comments.

Mr. Nick Gibb (Bognor Regis and Littlehampton): We are not talking about campaigns and seminars. If the Minister wants a public debate on the euro, why are she and the Secretary of State keeping secret from the House the cost to the public sector of conversion? The work has been done on that. We know that it has. She does not know the cost to the private sector of converting to the euro. Why will she not disclose the figure for the state sector? What is she hiding?

Mrs. Liddell: The hon. Gentleman should try to do his homework rather better. If he looks at the preparations for the introduction of the single currency in the eurozone countries, he will find that no eurozone country can yet say what the total cost of conversion will be. I have seen estimates ranging from 0.1 to 0.5 per cent. of GDP. In this country it would be impossible to make a guesstimate, which is what the hon. Gentleman seems to suggest should be done. I suggest that he concentrate rather more on the facts and rather less on rhetoric.

Rogue Traders

13. Ms Bridget Prentice (Lewisham, East): What measures he is taking to protect consumers from rogue traders. [133901]

The Minister for Competition and Consumer Affairs (Dr. Kim Howells): We are improving protection against rogue traders in three main areas: through better enforcement of consumer legislation, including e-commerce; by pursuing individual cases that are causing particular concern, such as the servicing and repair of cars; and through the modernising of consumer advice networks.

Ms Prentice: I am grateful to my hon. Friend for that answer. I know that he is very much in favour of the market--something for which I have some sympathy--but does he not think that it is time to recognise the consumer as the market? In that light, when is the injunctions directive likely to be introduced? What might its main effects be?

Dr. Howells: I believe that the market offers the best protection for consumers and the widest choice possible, which is better for them, but I am pleased that the injunctions directive will be introduced early next year. It will enable named bodies to take out injunctions in local courts against rogue traders. That will strengthen legitimate businesses and do much to protect vulnerable consumers.

Miss Anne McIntosh (Vale of York): Can the Minister help older people who are preyed on by rogue traders asking to tarmac their drives? They often have no comeback and could not afford an injunction through the court.

2 Nov 2000 : Column 835

Dr. Howells: Yes, indeed. The vulnerable people whom the hon. Lady mentions will not have to take out those injunctions. They can be taken out by trading standards officers or other named bodies. We know, for example, that the Consumers Association has become the named body on the mis-selling of mortgages. We will enable such bodies to seek injunctions in court to stop those gangsters trading.

Aerospace Industry

14. Dr. Doug Naysmith (Bristol, North-West): If he will make a statement on the role he envisages for regional development agencies in promoting innovation and investment in the aerospace industry. [133902]

The Minister for Competitiveness (Mr. Alan Johnson): Among the statutory purposes of the regional development agencies is the promotion of business efficiency, investment and competitiveness in their

2 Nov 2000 : Column 836

regions. In those regions in which the aerospace industry is significant, we envisage a close relationship between the RDA and companies in the sector on those issues.

Dr. Naysmith: I thank my hon. Friend for that reply. Is he aware of the importance of the aerospace industry not only to my constituency but to greater Bristol, and, indeed, to the whole of the south-west? Is he prepared to say that he will encourage the RDA to support and to encourage not only firms such as BAE Systems and Rolls-Royce, but smaller firms in the supply chain, which need that assistance and encouragement just as much?

Mr. Johnson: I am, of course, aware of the historical importance of Bristol and the south-west in the development of the aerospace industry. It would be perverse if the RDA in that area did not address the very issues that my hon. Friend has raised. As a result of our support for the A3XX, we expect 22,000 new jobs to be created and 62,000 existing jobs to be safeguarded. That is a very important development for manufacturing industry in this country.

2 Nov 2000 : Column 837

Next Section

IndexHome Page