Japanese Investment

Oral Answers to Questions — Trade and Industry – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 9th March 1994.

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Photo of Mr John Gunnell Mr John Gunnell , Leeds South and Morley 12:00 am, 9th March 1994

To ask the President of the Board of Trade how many Japanese companies opened their first European manufacturing plant in the United Kingdom in each of the calendar years from 1987 to 1993.

Photo of Mr Michael Heseltine Mr Michael Heseltine President of the Board of Trade

From information available to my Department it is not possible to determine whether any particular investment during the period in question is the first by a Japanese company in Europe. However, the number of Japanese manufacturers making their first investments in the United Kingdom in each of the years from 1987 to 1993 is as follows: 1987, 23; 1988, 15; 1989, 29; 1990, 34; 1991, 23; 1992, 17; and 1993, nine.

Photo of Mr John Gunnell Mr John Gunnell , Leeds South and Morley

I am sure that the Secretary of State will wish to congratulate Yorkshire and Humberside development association on the successful conference on Anglo-Japanese partnership last week. Will he acknowledge that many of the investments that the Japanese brought to this country required the co-operation at local level of Labour-controlled local authorities? Does he agree that Labour-controlled authorities have an excellent record in co-operating with development organisations to produce those settlements? Does he also agree that the shortfall in numbers shown by the two figures of 17 and nine that he gave for the past two years is the result of a complex number of factors? It certainly provides no evidence that the rejection of the social chapter by the Conservative party helped to secure Japanese inward investment.

Photo of Mr Michael Heseltine Mr Michael Heseltine President of the Board of Trade

The hon. Gentleman will know that the figures show beyond any doubt what we all know—that the Japanese industrial economy has been going through one of the most difficult periods since the war. I would be the first to recognise that local authorities, whether Labour or Conservative, largely behave in a responsible way in trying to help the Government and all those involved in inward investment to secure satisfactory arrangements. I wish that the Labour party in the House of Commons would act with the responsibility of local authorities.

Photo of Iain Duncan Smith Iain Duncan Smith , Chingford

Does my right hon. Friend agree that one reason why Japanese companies have invested in this country is our system of low regulation levels compared with those of many of our counterparts in the EC? Will he join me in congratulating my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary on his stalwart action in stopping any changes to the blocking minority in the Council of Ministers?

Photo of Mr Michael Heseltine Mr Michael Heseltine President of the Board of Trade

I will certainly convey to my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary the support of my hon. Friend, as well as others of my hon. Friends, for the negotiations that he is conducting.

Photo of Richard Burden Richard Burden , Birmingham, Northfield

Does the President accept that the answer that he gave to my hon. Friend the Member for Coventry, North-East (Mr. Ainsworth) will be greeted with astonishment and disgust by my constituents in Longbridge? Does he not recognise that unless the rift between Rover and Honda is repaired, the casualties will be many jobs in my constituency and elsewhere? Will he accept his responsibility to intervene and ensure that the rift is repaired and that the new partnership can be as successful as the old one?

Photo of Mr Michael Heseltine Mr Michael Heseltine President of the Board of Trade

The hon. Gentleman assumes that there is a role for the Government in what are essentially commercial arrangements. There is not a shred of evidence to show that either party wants the Government to intervene in this circumstance. If I thought that there was a danger of breakdown, that might change the circumstance, but there is no evidence of such a danger. Over the past three days, I have had personal dialogue with one of the principal players. Those people would have made very clear their views if it were necessary for me to take any positive steps at this stage. No purpose whatsoever is served when the hon. Gentleman or any of his hon. Friends raises scares of this sort, which are not reflected in the dialogue going on at boardroom level.

Photo of Michael Fabricant Michael Fabricant , Staffordshire Mid

Is my right hon. Friend aware that south Wales has become the silicon valley of Europe, producing Japanese colour television sets and computers, and that the Staffordshire-Derbyshire corridor has become the Detroit of Europe, with its Toyota plant? Does he agree that if it were up to the Labour party's interventionist policies and support for the social chapter, there would be no Japanese investment in Britain at all?

Photo of Mr Michael Heseltine Mr Michael Heseltine President of the Board of Trade

I cannot but admire the neo-imperialism of my hon. Friend. We have achieved a triumph of inward investment in all parts of the country. The essence of the case is to keep Britain competitive so that the investment continues to come.