Inward Investment

Oral Answers to Questions — Scotland – in the House of Commons at 1:50 pm on 20th November 1996.

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Photo of Mr Hugh Dykes Mr Hugh Dykes , Harrow East 1:50 pm, 20th November 1996

To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what investment from abroad has been attracted to Scotland in 1996 to date. [3459]

Photo of Mr George Kynoch Mr George Kynoch , Kincardine and Deeside

Record levels of investment have been attracted to Scotland in 1996.

Photo of Mr Hugh Dykes Mr Hugh Dykes , Harrow East

What conclusion does my hon. Friend draw from those record levels, from the forthcoming announcement about the massive Hyundai project and from the general outlook for economic activity and tax matters?

Photo of Mr George Kynoch Mr George Kynoch , Kincardine and Deeside

I think that my hon. Friend meant the recent and not the forthcoming announcement about Hyundai. The Hyundai project has already been announced, and it is excellent news for the Dunfermline area. There will be 2,000 new jobs and inward investment of £2.4 billion, which is the largest ever in Europe.

My hon. Friend is right—companies come to Scotland because it is a competitive, low-tax country. The Opposition's proposals will be bad for inward investment: whether it be their spending pledges, which it is reckoned will increase taxation by 9p, the extra 3p that they intend to impose through a tartan tax, their proposals for a uniform business rate, which will be an extra tax on business, or their trade tax. We would not continue to attract the record levels of investment that we currently enjoy under the Government.

Photo of Mr John Maxton Mr John Maxton , Glasgow Cathcart

Does the Minister seriously expect the House to believe that investors who come to Scotland do not know full well that Labour will win the next election, and that we shall establish a Scottish Parliament with tax-raising powers? If that is so, why are they not put off coming?

Photo of Mr George Kynoch Mr George Kynoch , Kincardine and Deeside

The hon. Gentleman should give inward investors a little more credit than that. They possibly look a little further ahead. They do not believe that the Labour party will win the next general election: they believe that the Government, with their beneficial policies for business and for the economy in Scotland, will continue for many years to come.

Photo of Mr Hector Monro Mr Hector Monro , Dumfries

On the matter of incentives, does my hon. Friend agree that it is right to bring it home to the House and to Scotland that no one would want to come to a country where income tax was 9p higher, the tartan tax was 3p and where there was an unknown trade tax, all of which have been proposed by Labour? Those proposals must be the biggest disincentive for anyone to come to Scotland that there has ever been.

Photo of Mr George Kynoch Mr George Kynoch , Kincardine and Deeside

My right hon. Friend is right. Businesses are concerned about their competitiveness. All businesses must exist in a highly competitive marketplace, so anything that makes them less competitive is bad. The social chapter, the minimum wage and the taxes to which my right hon. Friend referred, and which I mentioned earlier, would be bad for competitiveness, and thus bad for business, and would make inward investors think twice before they came to Scotland.

Photo of Jim Wallace Jim Wallace , Orkney and Shetland

The Minister has talked, not unreasonably, about the jobs that we already secure from inward investment. How does he feel about the threat of what might be described as predatory investment by Norwegian salmon farming companies in Scotland, which might buy up Scottish salmon farms? Those farms are made less viable by the currently plummeting price of salmon.

I accept that the Minister's colleagues in the Scottish Office appear to have been batting for the salmon farming industry, but their view does not seem to be shared throughout Government. What prospect can be offered to the salmon farmers of a minimum import price in the near future, so that they can try to secure the home-based Scottish industry that is so vital?

Photo of Mr George Kynoch Mr George Kynoch , Kincardine and Deeside

The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right. Salmon farming is an important industry, particularly in the highlands and islands. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State is already discussing the matter with colleagues, and my hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeen, South (Mr. Robertson)—the Minister responsible for fisheries—is going to Norway on Monday to discuss issues relating to the salmon farming industry.

Photo of Mr Phil Gallie Mr Phil Gallie , Ayr

What proportion of inward investment comes into Scotland through private finance initiatives? If the PFI relating to the new Scottish air traffic control centre were accepted, would that not increase inward investment further?

Photo of Mr George Kynoch Mr George Kynoch , Kincardine and Deeside

As a firm advocate on behalf of both Ayrshire and Prestwick, my hon. Friend knows only too well that we have recently had significant success with Rohr's investment in Prestwick. We continue to hold discussions with British Aerospace in Prestwick, to ensure that it is given all the support that it needs to develop further. I know that my hon. Friend is also a firm advocate of the air traffic control centre at Prestwick, and I am sure that my colleagues in the Department of Transport are well aware of his concerns.

Photo of Jimmy Hood Jimmy Hood Chair, European Legislation Committee

Is it not the case that, although the Government have 11 per cent. support in Scotland and trail Labour by over 20 per cent. in the United Kingdom, we still have an increase in inward investment? Could it be that those who have invested in Scotland consider their investment worth while because of the impending Labour Government and Scottish Parliament?

Photo of Mr George Kynoch Mr George Kynoch , Kincardine and Deeside

I must tell the hon. Gentleman to dream on. As I have said, there is no doubt that businesses that look to Europe and the United Kingdom for investment potential take into account the competitive circumstances that they can enjoy in Scotland. Clearly, anything that is likely to put that in jeopardy—such as higher taxation in Scotland, which is an inevitable consequence of the Opposition's policies—would reduce competitiveness, and make businesses think twice before coming to Scotland.

Photo of Mr Roy Beggs Mr Roy Beggs , East Antrim

Does the Minister recognise that the prosperity of Dumfries and Galloway has a considerable impact on the Northern Ireland economy? Can he assure us that the region is given equal prominence as a suitable location for new inward investment in Scotland?

Photo of Mr George Kynoch Mr George Kynoch , Kincardine and Deeside

I can assure the hon. Gentleman that all areas are given equal attention by Locate in Scotland when it comes to inward investment. The decision where to locate is made by inward investors themselves, and they will inevitably consider their individual circumstances in judging where they will find the skilled labour force that they may be seeking, and where they will secure the best access to their marketplace or suppliers. Nevertheless, I can tell the hon. Gentleman that no part of Scotland is not promoted by Locate in Scotland; the whole of Scotland is promoted, and long may that continue.