Government support for exports up £2 billion

The Government's export credit agency, UK Export Finance (UKEF), gave £4.3 billion worth of support to British businesses in 2012/13. This is an increase of £2 billion on the previous year and the highest since 2000/01.

The defence, aerospace, automotive and oil and gas industries in particular benefited from this support, in the form of credit guarantees and insurance policies, which allowed British businesses to export to 58 countries around the world.

Jim Bligh, the Confederation of British Industry's head of export policy, welcomed the news but stressed that SMEs are not yet benefiting from the support in the way that large multinationals are.

He said: "UKTI [UK Trade & Investment] and UK Export Finance need to do more to market their services to companies, with two-thirds of SMEs unaware of either.

"The Government should introduce a tax credit to help these smaller firms explore overseas markets and make sure existing finance schemes are wrapped into the planned Business Bank."

In 2012/13, UKEF provided export support to just 49 SMEs, despite the fact that they account for more than 99 per cent of the UK's 4.8 million businesses.

In March, a House of Lords Committee report found that awareness of UKEF and UKTI - the UK's other export support agency - among SMEs was too low. The Committee's chairman, Lord Cope, said the agencies needed to 'blow their own trumpets and promote their services for SMEs.'