Not a single penny has been lent so far under a £5 billion scheme to support British exporters which was supposed to have begun last year, it emerged on Monday night.
The initiative – designed to help companies to break into new foreign markets – was announced more than 12 months ago by Chancellor George Osborne.
The Treasury said the Exports Refinancing Facility would be operational by the end of 2012.
But parliamentary answers have disclosed the scheme is still on the drawing board. Michael Fallon, the business minister, told MPs: “No businesses have yet received support through the facility.”
Chuka Umunna, the shadow business secretary, said the admission was a “huge disappointment”. He said: “Ministers like to talk about a global race, but their failure is letting down businesses across Britain.”
Under the initiative, overseas buyers of British exports are due to receive long-term loans at competitive rates. It is aimed at companies in the aerospace, oil and gas extraction, transport and telecommunications sectors.
A spokeswoman for UK Export Finance said: “The scheme is being designed to ensure it helps businesses to export whilst providing good value for the taxpayer and complying with state aid rules. We want to make sure we get it right and are making progress.”
She said British exporters had received £4.3 billion in support last year through other schemes.