Press Release: ASI Report calls for government to slash export-boosting quango's budget and powers

  • The UK’s share of exports is declining whilst the cost of UKTI has risen over 70% under the current government.
  • UK Trade and Investment (UKTI), the quango charged with boosting British exports, is not fit for purpose.
  • The 10 recommendations listed in the report to improve UKTI include: slashing headquarter personnel from 500 to 50, turning UKTI into a stand-alone executive agency, empowering potential UK exporters and scrapping many of the quango's statistical bulletins.

In a new report from the Adam Smith Institute, “Is Government Helping Exports?” Senior Fellow of the Adam Smith Institute Tim Ambler critiques the 2013 research into UK Trade and Investment (UKTI), commissioned by Daniel Kawczynski MP, and argues the reforms it suggested were not radical enough.

Estimated to be spending £100m over its targeted budget, UKTI is not delivering enough exports to justify its costs. The report argues that UKTI is representative of some of the worst inefficiencies of the bloated quango state.

The report provides ten recommendations that, if adopted, would put a stop to wasted tax dollars and cut the agency down to size. The most important of these reforms include:

  • Transforming the UKTI into a stand-alone executive agency, with UK regional staff integrated with Chambers of Commerce
  • Put the UK’s [potential] exporters and receivers of inward investment in charge; it is not the role of civil servants and government officials to be picking winners and losers
  • Scrap the OMIS and other statistical reports and surveys; pointless target-driving does nothing to help exporters build partnerships overseas
  • Slashing UKTI's headquarters personnel from 500 to 50 

Commenting on the report, Director of the Adam Smith Institute, Dr Eamonn Butler, said:

“UK Trade and Investment – the government agency that is supposed to provide advice to exporters – seems more of a costly bureaucratic hindrance than a help. It costs far more than its official £270m budget, probably as much as £400m. This cost has soared by 70% under this government, and yet the UK's share of exports continues to decline.

“UKTI has a bureaucratic tick-box culture and there is no clear measure of what it actually does for exports. Businesses complain that its UK staff are office-bound and lack business acumen, while its overseas staff fail to communicate opportunities quickly and effectively to business.

“UKTI is top heavy and simply does not know how to help exporters succeed. Merely tinkering with it will not help. Potential exporters, rather than ministers and civil servants, should be put firmly in charge. The focus should not be on preparing reports and surveys, but in trying to make business contacts between UK exporters and potential partners overseas, and it is not obvious that a bureaucratic quango can actually help them much.”

The author of the report, Senior Fellow of the Adam Smith Institute, Tim Ambler, notes:

"The UK is failing to meet Government export goals by a wide margin.  The department charged with this responsibility, UKTI, does good work and has good intentions but overall it is poor value for the £400M p.a. it costs UK taxpayers. It needs radical reform.  This report's 10 recommendations would, if adopted, significantly improve UK international trade and investment."

For further comments or to arrange an interview, contact Tim Ambler at / 01263 740698 or contact Kate Andrews, Communications Manager, at / 07584 778 207.

The Adam Smith Institute is an independent libertarian think tank based in London. It advocates classical liberal public policies to create a richer, freer world.