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Treasury Questions

19th April 2016

Harriett Baldwin answers MPs’ questions on UK trade with Iran and supporting manufacturing exports.

UK-Iran Financial Transactions

Maggie Throup (Erewash) (Con)

11. What steps he is taking to facilitate transactions between UK and Iranian financial institutions. [904547]

The Economic Secretary to the Treasury (Harriett Baldwin)

The Government fully support expanding the UK’s trade relationship with Iran. The Treasury is actively liaising with UK banks and industry bodies, to understand concerns and help re-establish financial channels between the UK and Iran.

Maggie Throup

Despite the improving diplomatic relations between the British and Iranian Governments, UK businesses still face significant barriers to completing legitimate banking transactions for trade purposes. Will the Minister look at what more can be done to help to facilitate financial transactions between UK and Iranian banks, so that the UK economy can begin to benefit from this new market?

Harriett Baldwin

I thank my hon. Friend for her question. She is right that the situation with the payment channels between the UK and Iran is quite challenging, particularly because the US still has its primary sanctions in place. We have been speaking to banks at the highest levels. We have also been liaising with the US authorities to push for further clarity for UK banks. It is worth pointing out that some banks have a more extensive US business than others do, and that therefore it might be worth companies in my hon. Friend’s constituency and elsewhere considering switching to banks that have less exposure in the US.

Sir Simon Burns (Chelmsford) (Con)

Given the opportunities for British businesses in Iran as a result of the relaxation of sanctions, could the Treasury have a word with our friends the Americans to make sure that they do not seek to use their banking regulations to prevent some of the commercial deals that may flow to British companies as a result of that relaxation of sanctions?

Harriett Baldwin

My right hon. Friend is right to highlight one of the key issues. I assure him that we are working at all levels in discussions with the US authorities to ensure that British companies selling to Iran are able to put that money into UK bank accounts.

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Manufacturing Exports

Marie Rimmer (St Helens South and Whiston) (Lab)
14. What recent fiscal steps his Department has taken to support manufacturing exports. [904550]

The Economic Secretary to the Treasury (Harriett Baldwin)

It is Export Week, and I can announce that UK Export Finance has provided more than £15 billion of support to exporters since 2010 and UK Trade & Investment has more than doubled the number of businesses that it helps to more than 54,000.

Marie Rimmer

UK industrial production and manufacturing output suffered sharp falls in February, and they remain well below 2008 levels. Meanwhile, the Office for National Statistics reported that house prices in London have reached an average of £524,000, which is 49% higher than their pre-recession peak and out of the reach of all but those who are on six-figure salaries or who have benefited from a trust fund inheritance. When will my constituents see the Britain held aloft by the march of the makers, and the economy rebalanced towards the north of England, as the Chancellor promised?

Harriett Baldwin

I encourage the hon. Lady to seek an Adjournment debate to elaborate further on her question. I am sure that she and her constituents will welcome the fact that employment in the north-west is at the highest level on record; that more than 89,000 businesses in the north-west will not pay business rates; and that 360,000 people in the north-west will now benefit from the living wage.

Mr Alan Mak (Havant) (Con)

British exports to China have more than doubled since 2010, led by Havant-based manufacturers such as Colt and Lewmar. Will the Minister join me in congratulating those businesses, ​and will she encourage others to follow their lead by supporting and maintaining the Government’s pro-export policies?

Harriett Baldwin

It is wonderful to hear during Export Week about Colt and Lewmar, and their fantastic work exporting overseas. It is a key priority of the Government to continue to encourage more firms to export. In fact, we have ambitious aims to have another 100,000 businesses exporting over the life of this Parliament.

Rachel Reeves (Leeds West) (Lab)

The current account deficit is at a post-war high of more than 5% of GDP, and 44% of our exports go to the European Union. It took Canada seven years to negotiate a free trade agreement with the European Union. Does the Minister agree that the last thing that exporters need, and the last thing that the one in 10 jobs that depend on our exports to the EU need, is the uncertainty that the referendum is bringing—and, indeed, that Brexit would bring—to them and to those jobs?

Harriett Baldwin

The last time I looked, I thought it was also Labour policy to have such a referendum, but I agree with the hon. Lady that it is very important that she and others get out the message about the value of exports and the importance for manufacturing of the UK’s membership of the single market. That is why I shall vote in the same way as her on 23 June.

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Topical Questions

Rushanara Ali (Bethnal Green and Bow) (Lab)

T3. Analysis by the House of Commons Library, including that on the 2016 Budget, shows that, cumulatively, 86% of savings in the period between 2010 and 2020 will come from women’s pockets. What has the Chancellor got against women? [904529]

The Economic Secretary to the Treasury (Harriett Baldwin)

The analysis by the House of Commons Library is fundamentally flawed. First, it assumes that every pound of Government borrowing benefits people. It also does not highlight the fact that it is higher rate taxpaying women such as me, whose child benefit has been ended, who form the largest part of that group. Is the hon. Lady saying that her party wants to reinstate child benefit for higher rate taxpayers?

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