My Lords, following our vote to leave the European Union we have a chance to redefine and build our trading relationships across the world. We must therefore be devising and implementing rigorous strategies to increase our exports to other countries. I draw attention to the UK’s growing Islamic financial services industry and the opportunities it presents. Here, I declare an interest. I serve as co-chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Islamic Finance. I am also a voluntary patron of the Islamic Finance Council.
The UK has the largest Islamic finance industry outside the Muslim world, with assets now exceeding $20 billion. Worldwide, the industry is now worth more than $2 trillion. Last year, growth in the Islamic banking sector continued to outpace growth in conventional banking in systems where it had been established. Moody’s Corporation also states that the sector has potential for further double-digit growth in the coming years.
Specifically in the UK, the industry has progressed significantly in recent years. In 2013, the World Islamic Economic Forum was held in London, the first time the conference had been held outside the Muslim world. The then Prime Minister, David Cameron, confirmed the issue of a sovereign sukuk for £200 million. He also announced the arrangement of student loans and start-up loans on a sharia-compliant basis. I commend the former Prime Minister for realising the potential of Islamic finance and for being proactive in pushing it forward. I hope that our current Prime Minister will do the same.
We are also the leading centre in the West for education relating to Islamic finance and training. We have universities that provide specialist courses. We have an increasing number of personnel qualified in Islamic finance, including highly-trained asset managers, insurance providers, accountants and lawyers. We should now be looking to export these services overseas. We can help establish Islamic finance in other countries that may wish to emulate our own success. We can also further develop markets in countries where Islamic finance already exists. As Islamic finance grows across the world, maintaining a powerful hand in it will offer us a gateway to many global markets and economies. We must harness our talent and expertise in Islamic finance and other industries and export it to the world.
Finally, we must consider providing sharia-compliant export finance. The expansion of export finance facilities is important, as was mentioned by the noble Viscount, Lord Waverley, and my noble friend Lord Popat.