Oral Answers to Questions

Kemi Badenoch Excerpts
Thursday 30th November 2023

(4 months, 3 weeks ago)

Commons Chamber
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Martin Vickers Portrait Martin Vickers (Cleethorpes) (Con)
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1. What assessment she has made of the potential impact of the comprehensive and progressive agreement for trans-Pacific partnership on small and medium-sized enterprises in the UK.

Kemi Badenoch Portrait The Secretary of State for Business and Trade (Kemi Badenoch)
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The CPTPP is one of the major benefits of Brexit. It has the potential to deliver billions of pounds to our economy and benefits small businesses across the UK. The deal delivers lower tariffs, reduced red tape, and cutting-edge digital provisions that directly support small businesses to trade more. It has an SME chapter committing all countries to make the agreement accessible for SMEs. I know that will be welcome news for my hon. Friend ahead of Small Business Saturday.

Martin Vickers Portrait Martin Vickers
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I thank the Secretary of State for her answer. It is great news that we are progressing membership of CPTPP and I welcome what she says about SMEs. Many SMEs will be new to exporting and need expert advice. Will she outline what particular plans there are to help small businesses?

Kemi Badenoch Portrait Kemi Badenoch
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We will ensure that our support offer for SMEs will help firms build their capability to import and export under our free trade agreements. We have started preparing for CPTPP entering into force. We will be producing written guidance on gov.uk to ensure businesses are equipped with the knowledge they need to access those opportunities. Specifically, our export support service, network of international trade advisers, export academy, and in-market support services will also help businesses to access opportunities in CPTPP markets.

Jim Shannon Portrait Jim Shannon (Strangford) (DUP)
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In my constituency of Strangford SMEs are an integral, core part of creating jobs, putting wages into pockets, and ensuring that people can progress and learn more trades. We want to be part of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland pushing for the CPTPP. What can the Secretary of State do to help me and my businesses in Strangford to be a part of that and to move forward?

Kemi Badenoch Portrait Kemi Badenoch
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The hon. Gentleman will know that we had the Northern Ireland investment summit a few months ago. We met lots of businesses and investors who talked about how they want to take advantage of these markets. In fact, we have had one of the first big investors into a factory in Belfast. What I can do is help him with some of the materials we have around the export academy and the export support service, which he can hand out to businesses in his constituency who want to find out more.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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I call the shadow Minister.

Tanmanjeet Singh Dhesi Portrait Mr Tanmanjeet Singh Dhesi (Slough) (Lab)
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For UK businesses to benefit from agreements like the CPTPP, we must have a clear plan to boost small business exports. Labour has a plan to remove export barriers, with clear information and support. That is in stark contrast to the Government’s approach, which has been a catalogue of failures, including the recent fiasco with the Government’s export website, which was so deficient that firms were forced to seek essential information from foreign Government websites. What immediate steps will the Department take to provide some stability and ensure UK businesses can excel in exporting?

Kemi Badenoch Portrait Kemi Badenoch
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I think the hon. Gentleman might be talking about something that happened three years ago, which we fixed. He talks about the export support service website. Businesses have actually been praising it. [Interruption.] Businesses have been praising it; they very much have been. We have an expert toolkit, which has been developed by business and trade officials. What is interesting is that all he says is that Labour has a plan to remove export barriers. We have actually been removing export barriers. Labour talks about a plan with no detail. No one is taking it seriously at all. The Conservative party is the party that represents business in the House of Commons.

Deidre Brock Portrait Deidre Brock (Edinburgh North and Leith) (SNP)
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2. What recent progress her Department has made on bringing forward legislative proposals on reform of audit and corporate governance.

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Priti Patel Portrait Priti Patel (Witham) (Con)
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12. What steps she is taking to help support businesses in Essex to export.

Kemi Badenoch Portrait The Secretary of State for Business and Trade (Kemi Badenoch)
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As a fellow Essex MP, I can assure my right hon. Friend that this matter is close to my heart. Businesses can access support through great.gov.uk, including our self-serve digital offer, the export support service, international trade advisers and UK Export Finance. My Department is helping Essex companies such as Icon LifeSaver in Colchester to secure potential sales of over £10 million in the US, Colombia and Estonia. Kestrel Liner Agencies, which is headquartered in my constituency and last year received its third Queen’s Award for international trade, has also benefited. We are focused on priority trade barriers in particular, which could boost UK exports by around £20 billion over five years.

Priti Patel Portrait Priti Patel
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The Secretary of State will know inside out what the wonderful county of Essex has to offer when it comes to business exports. We have companies such as Wilkin & Sons and Wicks Manor, and many other producers who will sell the produce that households across the country will enjoy this Christmas, at home and abroad. Will the Secretary of State highlight how she is working across Government with other Departments to reduce the barriers to export that cover, for example, produce, manufacturing costs, energy costs, and even the processing of animals?

Kemi Badenoch Portrait Kemi Badenoch
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Removing barriers to trade is one of this Government’s top priorities. My right hon. Friend will know many of the things that the Government have been doing, including subsidising energy bills, because we recognise the difficulties that manufacturers and processing plants face. At the moment I am particularly focused on resolving trade barriers. We have resolved 178 trade barriers worth more than £6.5 billion to businesses, including those in Essex, over the next five years. Food producers in her constituency specifically will be pleased to know that just last month, when I was in Japan for the G7, we resolved a barrier restricting exports of cooked poultry from the UK to Japan, which I think will provide a festive boost to UK exporters worth an estimated £10 million over five years.

Joanna Cherry Portrait Joanna Cherry (Edinburgh South West) (SNP)
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13. Whether she has made an assessment of the potential merits of revoking arms export licences to Israel.

Steven Bonnar Portrait Steven Bonnar (Coatbridge, Chryston and Bellshill) (SNP)
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15. Whether she has made an assessment of the potential merits of revoking arms export licenses to Israel.

Kemi Badenoch Portrait The Secretary of State for Business and Trade (Kemi Badenoch)
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Since the barbaric terrorist acts by Hamas against Israel on 7 October and the subsequent conflict in the region, the Government have been monitoring the situation very closely. The UK supports Israel’s legitimate right to defend itself and take action against terrorism, provided that that is within the bounds of international humanitarian law. Export licences are kept under careful and continual review as standard, and we are able to amend licences or refuse new licence applications if they are inconsistent with the strategic export licensing criteria.

Joanna Cherry Portrait Joanna Cherry
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No one is suggesting that Israel does not have the right to defend itself—but, as the Secretary of State says and we agree, within the bounds of international law. The mass killing of civilians in Gaza should concern us all. Without resorting to platitudes about the relative toughness of the UK’s arms export controls, could she please identify which arms export licences are currently in force, including open licences for end use by the Israeli defence and security forces, and provide details of them to the House?

Kemi Badenoch Portrait Kemi Badenoch
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I do not believe that is something that I am able to do or should do. I can tell the hon. and learned Lady that last year we granted 114 standard individual export licences for military goods valued at £42 million to Israel. If there is a specific issue that she would like to highlight, we are prepared to look at it, but she will know that security and defence exports are not necessarily best discussed on the Floor of the House or in public, for obvious reasons.

Steven Bonnar Portrait Steven Bonnar
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A state that supplies military equipment that is used in the commission of violations of international humanitarian law is at risk of complicity in a humanitarian catastrophe. In continuing with those licences and supplying UK arms to Israel, what assessment does the Secretary of State make of the potential for UK Government complicity, if Israel is found to have committed war crimes in Gaza by the ongoing International Criminal Court investigation?

Kemi Badenoch Portrait Kemi Badenoch
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I am quite surprised that there is not a word of condemnation, and the implication that the UK is complicit is really not the sort of thing we would expect from a British Member of Parliament in this House. I completely disagree with the premise of the hon. Gentleman’s question. The Government take our defence export responsibilities extremely seriously and operate some of the most robust and transparent export controls in the world.

David Davis Portrait Mr David Davis (Haltemprice and Howden) (Con)
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14. What recent progress she has made on negotiating a trade deal with India.

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Matt Vickers Portrait Matt Vickers (Stockton South) (Con)
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T1. If she will make a statement on her departmental responsibilities.

Kemi Badenoch Portrait The Secretary of State for Business and Trade (Kemi Badenoch)
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This week, I hosted more than 200 global CEOs and investors at the UK global investment summit, which was an extraordinary success. The Prime Minister set a £9.5 billion target to beat, and we tripled it, securing £29.5 billion of investment and more than 12,000 jobs. The success of the GIS is a vote of confidence in the UK. My Department’s work, supported by the £20 billion business tax cut in the autumn statement, is securing our country as a world-leading business and investment destination.

Matt Vickers Portrait Matt Vickers
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Many people are aware of the incredible story of the Redcar steelworks site being reborn as Teesworks, creating 20,000 jobs and unlocking £2 billion in private investment. Fewer people are aware that Stockton’s very own freeport business park is being built at the airport. Does my right hon. Friend agree that Teesside, as the home of the UK’s first and biggest freeport, offers a unique opportunity to those investing in the industries of the future?

Kemi Badenoch Portrait Kemi Badenoch
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I do agree, and my hon. Friend is quite right to praise the progress that has been made on delivering Teesside freeport. The freeport has already been successful in securing several landmark investments, including from SeAH Wind, which is investing £650 million in building an offshore wind manufacturing facility. That will create around 750 high-skilled jobs and builds on the measures announced in the autumn statement last week to further strengthen the offer of UK freeports. My Department will continue to work with freeports, in Teesside and elsewhere, on securing high-value investment.

Jonathan Reynolds Portrait Jonathan Reynolds (Stalybridge and Hyde) (Lab/Co-op)
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This is the Department in charge of growth, investment and exports. In the latest figures, following the autumn statement, growth has been downgraded. Business investment is still forecast to be the lowest in the G7, and goods exports have declined, both to the EU and to non-EU countries. Given that there are so many amazing businesses and sectors in the UK, how do the Government account for their poor performance?

Kemi Badenoch Portrait Kemi Badenoch
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I will not allow the hon. Gentleman to spin his way out of what is actually a very good news story for the Government. The fact is that the UK has overtaken France to become the world’s eighth-largest manufacturing nation. We are the world’s fifth-largest exporter. We are growing faster than Germany and France, and have received more investment than them combined. We are the top investment destination, certainly for financial services. We are doing well. Perhaps this is the moment for me to tell him what businesses told me at the global investment summit: that they were unimpressed by the Labour shadow Ministers they had met; that their offer was unimaginative; and that they were repetitive, and had no vision for the future of business in the UK.

Jonathan Reynolds Portrait Jonathan Reynolds
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We follow the Secretary of State’s Twitter feed, and quite simply, we do not believe her.

I want to ask the Secretary of State about late payment. In the nine years that the Government have spent consulting on late payments, 450,000 businesses have gone under while waiting to be paid. Why do the Government’s new plans on late payment apply only to firms contracting with the Government? Why do they not rather follow our proposal to make sure that all public companies disclose their payment practices?

Kemi Badenoch Portrait Kemi Badenoch
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I have been working with the Federation of Small Businesses and others on late payments. The hon. Gentleman will have heard the measures announced in the autumn statement; this is an issue that the Government take very seriously. I disagree that we are implementing our plans in a partial way. We will resolve this issue, but I am afraid that I completely disagree with the Opposition: have done quite a lot on this, and many businesses have praised the measures that we announced in the autumn statement.

David Davis Portrait Mr David Davis (Haltemprice and Howden) (Con)
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T4. On 14 November, the Government signed a memorandum of understanding with the US state of Florida. This is the seventh such agreement that the Government have signed with a state in the US, and I understand that there are ongoing discussions with other states. Obviously, that is welcome. Will the Secretary of State give us an assessment of the effect of this approach, and tell us what the next steps are to getting a more general trade agreement with the United States?

Kemi Badenoch Portrait Kemi Badenoch
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We are ready to have a free trade agreement with the US, but it is not undertaking free trade agreements with any country. That is, of course, disappointing, but it knows that we stand ready. That is why we have the state MOU programme. The latest figures show that UK-US trade has reached £310 billion. We are the biggest investor in Florida. I was pleased to meet Governor DeSantis earlier this month, and I also met the California Governor, Gavin Newsom, who wanted to be even faster in signing an MOU with the UK. They believe that this country has a lot of opportunity, and they want to do business with us.

Richard Thomson Portrait Richard Thomson (Gordon) (SNP)
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Import tariffs on egg products allow us to recognise the higher cost of UK egg production because of safety, welfare and environmental considerations. Can the Secretary of State give an assurance that eggs and egg products will be afforded sensitive product status by the UK in future free trade agreement negotiations, and that import tariffs will remain in place on those products?

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Tonia Antoniazzi Portrait Tonia Antoniazzi (Gower) (Lab)
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T2. At their busiest time of year, British cheese exporters are warning of damaging losses as the Government continue to fail to reach a deal that ensures access to the Canadian market. Every day that the Government fail, companies such as the Snowdonia Cheese Company in north Wales lose contracts, and they cannot make plans with the looming deadline of 31 December a matter of weeks away. Can the Minister update the House on the negotiations to extend the deadline for cheese tariff quotas between the UK and Canada?

Kemi Badenoch Portrait Kemi Badenoch
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We are aware of the situation, and are working on it—negotiations to resolve it are actively ongoing. UK cheese is in increasing demand in Canada, and exports of UK cheese benefit businesses on both sides of the Atlantic. The UK has made continued and repeated efforts to find a solution since negotiations began, including by seeking an extension to the current arrangements, and we are clear that the UK is rightly entitled to ongoing access to Canada’s World Trade Organisation cheese tariff quota under our rights and obligations at the WTO.

Marco Longhi Portrait Marco Longhi (Dudley North) (Con)
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As the Prime Minister’s trade envoy to Brazil, I know that the best way of supporting exports from my Dudley businesses is to remove barriers to trade. That is why I was absolutely delighted when both our countries signed a double taxation agreement, in good faith and to the highest possible standards. There appear to be complications in Brazil at the moment with ratifying that agreement through Congress, as we have ratified it through our Parliament. What more can Ministers—the Chancellor of the Exchequer, perhaps—do to try to persuade Brazil that it is indeed a very good deal for itself as well?

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Joanna Cherry Portrait Joanna Cherry (Edinburgh South West) (SNP)
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T6.   Could I revisit my earlier question to the Secretary of State about arms export licences to Israel? I and many others do not agree with her secrecy approach, and I and many others believe that Members of Parliament are entitled to this information, so I will try another approach. Could she detail the classification and description of the goods, the stated end use and the licence type, including direct transfers and those via third countries, and could she place that information in the Library for Members of Parliament?

Kemi Badenoch Portrait Kemi Badenoch
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I believe there is a quarterly register that may contain some of the information the hon. and learned Member is asking for, but I am not able or going to list every single export decision that has been made by the export control joint unit. I will see what I can do to get her a fuller answer, but she will know that this is a very sensitive issue. I have a quasi-judicial role, and I must be seen to be impartial at all times. I will do what I can to provide the information she wants, but I do not have a list to provide her with this morning, and certainly not on the Floor of the House.

Edward Leigh Portrait Sir Edward Leigh (Gainsborough) (Con)
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On Scunthorpe, what major economy does not have a blast furnace and the ability to make virgin steel?