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India (Bilateral Trade)

7. Peter Luff (Mid-Worcestershire) (Con): If he will make a statement on bilateral trade with India. [13808]

The Minister for Trade (Ian Pearson): Our bilateral trade relationship with India has never been better. Data for the first quarter of 2005 indicate a 23.9 per cent. increase in trade over the same quarter in 2004. That is good news, but there is still plenty of room for improvement. I am pleased to report that the Joint Economic and Trade Committee, announced by both Prime Ministers in September last year, is already making good progress in areas such as air services, legal services and the creative and media sector.

Peter Luff: I think that the Minister has confirmed with that answer that the story of trade with India is of the cup being half empty and half full. There is much of which to be proud, but much more that could be done. Will he put pressure on the Indian Government to continue liberalisation in key sectors, such as insurance? With respect to the Joint Economic and Trade Committee, will he consider the possibility of establishing industry-led groups in key areas, such as infrastructure and life sciences, to draw the full attention of British businesses to the huge opportunities that exist in India?

Ian Pearson: The hon. Gentleman is right about the importance of India as a market today and for the
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future. He will be aware of the work of the Joint Economic and Trade Committee in areas such as those he mentioned, including infrastructure, on which we need to do more. He is right about insurance, because we want to see greater opening of the market in India. He also mentioned life and biosciences and that is another area in which we want to see co-operation in the future. Total trade at present, including services, is some £6 billion per annum, which is good business for the UK and for India.

Derek Wyatt (Sittingbourne and Sheppey) (Lab): India has the largest number of graduates and postgraduates in computer science and the UK has more than 100,000 vacancies. We are fast-forwarding entry visas for people from India to take jobs in this country. Is there any way that we can copy and borrow India's system for training its computer scientists so that we can employ our own people?

Ian Pearson: The important thing is to recognise the strengths in IT training in both the UK and India. Recently, there has been inward investment from Indian companies such as Infosys, Wypro and Tata Consultancy Services, which are all in the ICT sector. We want that to continue to grow and we want skilled, high-quality jobs in the UK. My hon. Friend has a point about the number of high-quality, skilled Indians being trained in that country.

Mr. David Heath (Somerton and Frome) (LD): Is the hon. Gentleman aware of the gross disparity between the import tariffs applied to leather used in our indigenous gloving industry derived from India and that from the Republic of China? Will he look into the matter and write to me?

Ian Pearson: I would be happy to look into the detailed point that the hon. Gentleman made, but I would like to say something on the more general point—the World Trade Organisation negotiations in Hong Kong. India has a crucial role to play in those negotiations. We want real progress to be made in Hong Kong in December and a pro-poor outcome to the Doha development round, which will benefit the least developing countries as well as countries such as India and the UK. There are gains to be made in trade for all of us.

Mr. Lindsay Hoyle (Chorley) (Lab): Obviously, my hon. Friend is aware of the importance of trade with all the countries of the Association of South East Asian Nations. India is an important area for UK exports, so what is the ministerial team doing? How often do Ministers visit India and which big contracts are they promoting? There is much aerospace work to be taken up, so can my hon. Friend tell the House what we are doing about that?

Ian Pearson: My hon. Friend is right about the opportunities in aerospace, but there are also opportunities in a wide range of other sectors. One of the things that the Joint Economic and Trade Committee decided to do was to hold an annual summit, and my hon. Friend is probably aware that the Prime Minister will be visiting India with a business delegation
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in September. Regular ministerial visits are planned to India in the future because we recognise the importance of that country as a market.

Mrs. Eleanor Laing (Epping Forest) (Con): Given the historical and beneficial connections between Britain and India, what is the case for leaving the European Union in complete control of our trading relations with India?

Ian Pearson: I find that quite staggering. The hon. Lady will be aware that when we joined the Common Market in 1973 we signed up for the common commercial policy, which means that the EU has competence in negotiating trade agreements. We obviously have a role in the EU as a member state, but when there is a single market we cannot have one rule on trade policy for the UK and another rule for France, another for Germany and another for Spain. It is wrong and ignorant to suggest that we could.

Deep Coal Industry

8. Paddy Tipping (Sherwood) (Lab): When he last met representatives from the deep coal industry to discuss investment aid. [13809]

The Minister for Energy (Malcolm Wicks): Both I and my predecessors have held meetings on a regular basis with representatives of the deep coal industry. Investment aid is usually among the issues discussed.

Paddy Tipping: Will the Minister agree to meet representatives of the work force of the three remaining collieries in Nottinghamshire—Harworth, Thoresby and Welbeck—to discuss real and immediate issues? First, there are bids in the Department for about £100 million for investment aid, but no resources to meet them. Secondly, there are immediate problems at Harworth colliery. The pit is to be mothballed next spring, but let us be clear: in this case, mothballing is another name for closure.

Malcolm Wicks: I would welcome an opportunity to meet representatives of the work force, and my hon. Friend, to discuss these matters, particularly Harworth colliery. We are very sorry to hear that technical problems have meant that Harworth has had to close down, we hope temporarily. There has been considerable Government investment into Harworth. Yes, we will meet and I look forward to that meeting.

Mrs. Theresa Villiers (Chipping Barnet) (Con): Will the Minister comment on whether technological innovation in terms of clean coal and carbon capture will have an impact on investment aid to the coal industry and the future of the industry itself?

Malcolm Wicks: In terms of the international climate change challenge this is crucial because much coal will be burned in the decades to come, not least in emerging economies such as China, so clean coal technology and, in other areas, carbon abatement and carbon capture are the technologies that will count in the decades to come. Of course we will look at the role of those technologies in the United Kingdom.

Mr. Dennis Skinner (Bolsover) (Lab): It would make a lot more sense if Tories getting up to talk about clean
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coal would remember that we had a clean coal plan at Grimethorpe in South Yorkshire and the Tories closed that pit. The Government have given money to UK Coal for almost every pit that has subsequently closed; we have done that every time. The same will apply to Harworth. I just want to warn my hon. Friend that giving money to put in the pockets of UK Coal does not in the long term save the jobs of the miners. What it does is enable UK Coal, which is in reality a property company, to have more money to buy more land, in order to develop it when it has shut the pit. There is only one answer: we have got to take those six remaining pits back into public ownership.

Malcolm Wicks: I was uncertain, up until the last sentence, of what my hon. Friend's position was on that.

Mr. Skinner: What is wrong with it?

Malcolm Wicks: This is a very serious issue. There are immediate issues facing certain coal mines, which we are addressing; none of these things is easy. There is a more strategic issue about the future of British coal, which I think we need to look at in the wider context of energy supply in the 21st century.

Mr. Peter Atkinson (Hexham) (Con): Looking forward, not back, does the Minister accept that long-term price stability is the key issue for the deep coal industry, without which investment is not possible? When the Government review the security of energy supplies, will they consider what can be done to guarantee a long-term price structure for the industry?

Malcolm Wicks: That is not easy when prices of different sources of energy are rising worldwide, but we will certainly bear that point in mind. We always look forward, not back, and I am glad that the Conservative party is beginning to brush up on its communication skills.

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