Ben Woods, Business writer
Thursday, March 20, 2014
Investment in a lending scheme aimed at boosting exports is to be doubled to £3bn under a raft of measures to help business drive economic recovery.
The chancellor said exports were increasing, but he wanted to spread the Made in Britain mark across the world.
UK Export Finance will expand its direct lending programme and cut interest rates to provide competitive financing for firms bidding to win overseas contracts.
It came as George Osborne announced in the budget that UK passengers on long-haul flights will benefit from an overhaul of the much-hated air passenger duty (APD) airport departure tax.
Mr Osborne admitted that the current system was “crazy and unjust” in that Britons travelling on, say, eight-hour flights to Barbados pay more APD than those on 11-hour flights to California.
Meanwhile, regional airports were handed a sweetener from the chancellor with the extension of the £20m Regional Air Connectivity Fund to include start-up aid for new flight routes.
Hamsin Hadziabic, Norwich International Airport business development manager, said the measures could have the potential to improve regional business links and attract inward investment to East Anglia – but he would have to study the details closely to see if Norwich airport qualifies.
“In respect of the announcement on the Regional Air Connectivity fund, it is a positive sign that the government has recognised the importance of regional airports for UK’s connectivity and the important contribution to the economy that they make,” he said.
“We will explore this announcement in detail in order to fully understand whether Norwich airport could qualify for funding to help with our efforts in developing new services to unserved business and leisure markets.
“By improving the region’s connectivity, we can help to assist the growth of the region’s economy – the business and tourism sectors in particular.”