Inward Investment

Oral Answers to Questions — Trade and Industry – in the House of Commons at 1:47 pm on 22nd January 1997.

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Photo of Mr Nick Hawkins Mr Nick Hawkins , Blackpool South 1:47 pm, 22nd January 1997

To ask the President of the Board of Trade how many jobs have been created and safeguarded as a result of inward investment since (a) 1979 and (b) 1992. [10592]

Photo of Mr Ian Lang Mr Ian Lang , Galloway and Upper Nithsdale

Since 1979, the Invest in Britain Bureau has recorded more than 853,000 jobs associated with inward investment decisions, of which over 352,000 relate to the period since 1992. The United Kingdom is still the number one location in the European Union for investment from Japan, the United States and Korea. That is an enviable record, which the Government are determined to maintain in the face of increased competition from our European partners.

Photo of Mr Nick Hawkins Mr Nick Hawkins , Blackpool South

I thank my right hon. Friend for that answer. Does he agree that, in the years leading up to 1979 under the last Labour Government, the received wisdom of every international commentator was that Britain was the sick man of Europe, and we were down at the bottom of the league tables with Turkey? Is it not the case that the Government's policies have transformed the position and attracted vastly more inward investment and that, in particular, manufacturing industry and the motor trade throughout the country, including Vauxhall in the north-west, have done tremendously well? Will my right hon. Friend confirm that he will continue to pursue those policies?

Photo of Mr Ian Lang Mr Ian Lang , Galloway and Upper Nithsdale

My hon. Friend is right. Because we have helped the United Kingdom's economy to become more competitive and rejected the social chapter and the other burdens that the Labour party and the European Union would impose on us, we have, in the words of Mr. Jacques Delors, turned the United Kingdom into a "paradise for inward investment". My hon. Friend mentioned the motor industry and I am sure that he welcomes yesterday's announcement by Nissan, which will create some 3,500 jobs, and the recent announcements by Ford-Jaguar, Vauxhall, Rover-BMW and Toyota. Like so many other manufacturing industries in this country, the motor industry is now buoyant and successful because of the Government's policies.

Photo of Barry Sheerman Barry Sheerman , Huddersfield

The Secretary of State surely knows that we are all in favour of inward investment, but the Government use it as a fig leaf to cover the nakedness of their policy on indigenous investment. The Government's investment record is rotten and rates poorly against those of all our major competitors. The Government use inward investment as a cheap shot—almost as cheap as the antics of the Deputy Prime Minister yesterday.

Photo of Mr Ian Lang Mr Ian Lang , Galloway and Upper Nithsdale

The hon. Gentleman is talking nonsense. He should reflect on the fact that, while unemployment has been rising throughout the European Union for the past few years, it has been falling in the United Kingdom, and that the UK is attracting more than 30 per cent. of all the inward investment into the European Union and more than 40 per cent. of all the American and Japanese investment into the EU. That is a judgment from the world on the competitiveness, efficiency and success of the British economy as a good place to manufacture and invest.

Photo of Mr Bob Dunn Mr Bob Dunn , Dartford

Does the Minister agree that we will use every opportunity to attract inward investment, including the refusal to introduce a windfall tax? Will he take the opportunity to condemn the insider dealings of Robert Ayling, who appears to have struck a deal with the Labour party to his own benefit, at the same time earning himself £750,000 a year for bowing and scraping to the Leader of the Opposition?

Photo of Mr Ian Lang Mr Ian Lang , Galloway and Upper Nithsdale

I agree with my hon. Friend that the windfall tax would penalise consumers of essential utilities, would be arbitrary in its impact and would be unfair on investors and consumers of essential utilities in this country. It is a policy to which the Labour party is committed as part of its high-spend, high-tax approach to the running of this country.

Mr. John D. Taylor:

The Government's record in attracting inward investment to the United Kingdom has been remarkably successful in recent years and most people recognise that, but will the Secretary of State bear in mind that one negative factor could damage us in the years ahead—the imbalance between corporation tax levels in the United Kingdom and those of some of our competitor nations?

Photo of Mr Ian Lang Mr Ian Lang , Galloway and Upper Nithsdale

I am surprised to hear the right hon. Gentleman say that, because our corporate taxes are among the lowest in Europe. When we came into office, the corporation tax rate was 52p in the pound, and 42p in the pound for small businesses. Those rates have been dramatically reduced. The corporate tax rate for small businesses is now 23p in the pound and that is one of the reasons why so many businesses have taken root—there are now over I million more than there were, including those in Northern Ireland.

Photo of Mr David Madel Mr David Madel , South West Bedfordshire

Does my right hon. Friend agree that more jobs will be created and safeguarded as long as we keep interest rates low and stop the pound becoming overvalued? Will he ask the Governor of the Bank of England to pay exceptional attention to the views of industry on what our interest rates should be?

Photo of Mr Ian Lang Mr Ian Lang , Galloway and Upper Nithsdale

I am sure that my right hon. and learned Friend the Chancellor will take note of my hon. Friend's point. However, I am sure that my hon. Friend will also reflect on the fact that the capacity of Governments to influence exchange rates is extremely limited. The present exchange rate is a reflection of the strength and growth of the British economy and it helps us to fight inflation. The improved productivity and competitiveness of our economy enables us to continue to manufacture and export at present levels.

Photo of Kim Howells Kim Howells , Pontypridd

Do the figures on inward investment include the purchase of privatised utilities by American and French companies? Do those purchases actually create jobs, given the massive hurdles that those British firms are forced to climb over before being allowed a share of the American and French utility markets? Why have the Government displayed such indolence and half-heartedness in fighting to win for British business fairness in competition and equality of access to the hugely protected markets of France and Germany?

Photo of Mr Ian Lang Mr Ian Lang , Galloway and Upper Nithsdale

The hon. Gentleman seems to be completely unaware of the dramatic successes that privatised industries are having in worldwide markets. When I was in India the week before last, representatives of British Telecom were with me and they secured a £60 million deal. The same is true in other industries: for example, the water industry has people on overseas missions all over the world, winning business for this country.

Investment involving the purchase of British companies is also inward investment that brings new assets and new money into the country, creates new jobs, invests in new machinery and new technology and helps to contribute to the remarkable growth in output, exports and employment that we have secured in the past few years.