The Duke of York has held talks with the heads of four engineering giants ahead of a visit to the Middle East, during which he will promote the expertise of the UK industry.

Prince Andrew, who is the UK’s special representative for international trade and investment, held a lunch at Buckingham Palace earlier this month with Samir Brikho, chief executive of Amec, Keith Clarke, chief executive of Atkins, Peter Rogers, chief executive of Babcock, and Peter Gammie, chief executive of Halcrow.

The prince arranged the lunch ahead of a trip to Abu Dhabi, where he will meet officials from the Ministry of Economy.

He has previously been involved in high-level meetings for water and energy infrastructure projects in the Gulf.

The prince’s influence is likely to extend further in regions that have a traditional sense of hierarchy, such as the United Arab Emirates, than it might in Europe.

A source said: “A word in the right ear can sometimes help a lot.”

As special representative, the prince helps UK business improve its prospects in international markets.