House of Lords Committee report criticises UKTI and UKEF

Posted on 8 Mar 2013 by The Manufacturer

The report Roads to Success: SME Exports from the House of Lords Committee on SMEs says support bodies should be doing more to support the internationalisation of small and medium sized firms.

Roads to Success: SME Exports, published today by the House of Lords Committee on Small and Medium sized Enterprises expresses shock at the small number of SMEs assisted by UK Export Finance (UKEF).

Only 21 SME companies received help from the body in the year to August 2012, a low level which the report says is the result of substandard marketing of the services UKEF has to offer.

UK Trade and Investment was also asked to do more in term of educating SMEs about alternative finance options for export strategies.

Committee chair Lord Cope said: “We are calling on UK Trade and Industry and UK Export Finance to blow their own trumpets and promote their services for SMEs. They must work with business organisations, local chambers of commerce, banks and accountancy firms to ensure SMEs who could export know where to get help both in getting started and in building their turnover and profits overseas.”

While urging UKEF and UKTI to be far stronger in communicating with and educating SMEs about their services, the report also recognises the important role played by UK banks in facilitating export growth.

Without a greater readiness to take on risk in lending to exporters the committee recognised the UKEF’s offerings would be “dead in the water”.

Responding to the report Matthew Fell, director for competitive markets at business association the CBI said: “Smaller firms must be at the heart of the UK’s efforts to boost exports. There are already many British firms selling their world-beating products and services overseas, but there is huge potential for many more.”

Mr Fell agreed that government bodies designed to boost exports need to step up their marketing “so that more businesses are aware of what help is available and to deliver on its promises to enhance the support available.”

Graham Dewhurst, president of the Manufacturing Technologies Association which recently detailed a two year strategy to focus on the internationalisation of UK SMEs, also welcomed the report but questioned the committee’s definition of the term ‘SME’ and the consequent appropriateness of the solutions being developed for them.

“The committee identifies that there are five million SMEs in the UK. But this includes soles traders which is ridiculous and unhelpful in helping support bodies and banks develop offerings which will make a real difference to UK manufacturing exports,” he said.