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Inward Investment

Volume 281: debated on Wednesday 17 July 1996

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To ask the President of the Board of Trade what plans he has to change the arrangements for attracting inward investment to the United Kingdom. [36077]

The United Kingdom's inward investment record is second to none and the envy of many of our competitors. I was able to announce on 9 July that my Department's Invest in Britain Bureau registered a record number of 477 inward investment decisions into the United Kingdom in 1995–96, creating a record 48,256 new jobs which represents a 30 per cent. increase over last year's record. That is a considerable tribute to our administrative arrangements.

As a former Secretary of State for Scotland, will the President of the Board of Trade pay tribute to the work of Locate in Scotland and to that of local authorities and local enterprise companies in attracting inward investment, such as Exabyte and PM Support Services in Central park in Larbert? In view of reports that the Government are considering centralising arrangements to attract inward investment, will the President of the Board of Trade give an absolute assurance that there will be no reduction in the role and the powers of Locate in Scotland?

I am happy to assure the hon. Gentleman that I have no plans to seek to inhibit the performance of Locate in Scotland. I spent nine years, as Minister responsible for industry and as Secretary of State, helping to build up Locate in Scotland and to secure record inward investment figures. The success of such agencies, coupled with the Government's overall economic performance, has made the United Kingdom an attractive place to locate. We have attracted more than 40 per cent. of both American and Japanese inward investment in the European Union. The Labour party's policies would bring that successful run to an end and start to drive away investors.

Is my right hon. Friend aware of the message that multinational companies in my constituency are sending? They tell me that, although take-home pay in Britain is broadly the same as in other continental countries, the on-costs for business in those countries is four times as great as for multinationals that are trading in Great Britain.

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. That is one of the reasons why we should not accept the social chapter and sign on for it—as the Labour party would. It is significant that, last year, in addition to the successful inward investment decision by Siemens to locate in the United Kingdom, 57 companies—more than one a week—decided to relocate from Germany to the United Kingdom. That is a measure of our competitiveness.