Credit insurers supported £178bn worth of trade last year generating premium income of around £319m, according to figures from the Association of British Insurers.

There was a 15% rise in the amount of UK export business covered by the niche market to £53bn, and in total, it supported 16% of the UK's gross domestic product.

The gross debt of UK claims fell slightly to £332m in 1999. But this is still well above the 1996 and 1997 levels – £256m and £285m respectively (recoveries are still not possible on this gross debt, so it cannot be considered as claims paid).