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Confederation Of British Industry

Volume 32: debated on Wednesday 17 November 1982

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asked the Secretary of State for Scotland when he intends next to meet the chairman of the Confederation of British Industry in Scotland to discuss industrial regeneration.

I frequently meet the chairman of the Confederation of British Industry in Scotland both formally and informally to discuss industrial issues.

When my right hon. Friend next meets the chairman, will he discuss with him the operation of Locate in Scotland, particularly its recent success in bringing Wang to Stirling, and inward investment that it could achieve in future? Will he also discuss with the chairman the need to instil into Scottish industry the confidence that is reflected in the forward surge of support for the Conservative Party in Scotland recorded in the opinion poll in the Glasgow Herald this morning?

I noted that with interest in today's paper. I agree with my hon. Friend about the attitude of the CBI to Locate in Scotland. The CBI made it clear at its recent conference that it broadly supports the Government's strategy and considers that the proposed strategy of the official Opposition would be disastrous for industry and jobs.

In an earlier answer to me this afternoon, the Secretary of State referred to 7,000 businesses in Scotland that had closed and to 8,000 new businesses that had started up. Will he give us the comparative figures for employment in the 8,000 businesses that have opened as against the 7,000 that have closed?

That is an interesting idea, although I think that it would be difficult to find the precise figures. Nevertheless, the position is clear. There is a net balance in favour of more businesses opening than closing, which surely must be welcomed even by the right hon. Gentleman.

Is the Secretary of State aware that it is not surprising that the chairman of the CBI in Scotland supports the Government? After all, he is the treasurer of the Tory Party in Scotland. He is also the chairman of the constituency party of the hon. Member for Renfrewshire, East (Mr. Stewart), and he is reasonably satisfied with his Member of Parliament.

Does the right hon. Gentleman still stand by the statement that he made in the United States on 25 September, that the conditions that he had created in Scotland for inward investment would make profits quickly, keep those profits out of the hands of the tax man, and enable them to be exported at will? Is that the attraction for inward investment?

The hon. Gentleman has written that himself. That was not what I said. I said—it was true, and it is still true—that we are able to tell companies overseas which are thinking of setting up in Scotland that if they come to Scotland they will be able to make good profits and keep those profits. That, in my opinion, is a good thing for them to want to do, and I hope that I can encourage as many of them as possible to do so.

May I have an assurance from the Secretary of State that if I send him his own press release he will publicly apologise for denying what he said in the United States?

If I can get a copy of my own press release, I shall read it again with great interest. The fact remains that Scotland is a good place to which overseas industries should come, and, if they come, they will make good profits, which they can keep. That is good news.