Economy: Currency Fluctuations - Motion to Take Note

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 2:07 pm on 17th November 2016.

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Photo of Lord Young of Cookham Lord Young of Cookham Lord in Waiting (HM Household) (Whip) 2:07 pm, 17th November 2016

My noble friend urges me to go way beyond my negotiating brief at the Dispatch Box this afternoon, but I will certainly convey his suggestion to my right honourable friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer, or indeed the Prime Minister. I know that there has been anxiety about the ease with which UK companies can be taken over, but I make no commitment whatever in that respect.

I was saying that GlaxoSmithKline recently announced £275 million of new investment in UK manufacturing sites and £540 million in a new company in partnership with Verily Life Sciences. Then came Google’s decision a few days ago to invest in Britain and create 3,000 jobs, which is a big vote of confidence in the UK’s leading position as a global tech hub. So, to put it in context against some of the rather depressing predictions we have heard, we have seen that many companies continue to value the opportunities for business in the UK, which last year saw business investment grow faster than in any other G7 country outside the US—and that should not come as a surprise to any of us.

My noble friend touched on infrastructure spending, which is a really important priority. We have invested more than a quarter of a trillion pounds since 2010 and we are committed to spending more than £100 billion on infrastructure projects by the end of this Parliament. This will contribute to everything from big transport projects such as HS2, to rolling out superfast broadband and improving our flood defences—and I will ensure that the Chancellor of the Exchequer takes on board the proposal made by my noble friend about funding defence protection schemes. It is worth noting that we are investing more than £2 billion in 1,500 flood defence projects to protect our homes and businesses. We are also committed to developing the skills that our businesses need, including in the rural sector.

In conclusion, my noble friend Lady McIntosh is right to draw our attention to the fluctuation in the value of sterling and the effects it may have on people and businesses in this country, particularly in rural communities. The Government share her view on the importance of remaining vigilant to any potential impact of movements in the sterling exchange rate. We will continue to monitor developments closely, as will the independent Bank of England. At the same time, we will continue to use all the tools at our disposal to make sure that our economy is working for everyone across the UK and across industries. This means taking further steps to improve our productivity and to promote economic growth in communities in every part of the UK. It is this approach which will always inform this Government’s work to strengthen the British economy—including, of course, when the Government set out their fiscal plans in the Autumn Statement next week.

I conclude by thanking all noble Lords who have taken part in this debate.