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Business Relocation

Volume 450: debated on Thursday 19 October 2006

6. If he will make it a requirement for companies considering relocation overseas to consult the Department, regional development agencies and the local community. (95033)

We encourage companies to consult their employees before making relocation decisions. We also expect companies to work with their RDAs and local communities to help any employees who lose their jobs as a result of such decisions. However, we have no plans to make consultation a requirement.

I thank the Minister for her reply, but expectations and reality are not necessarily the same. Does she share my dismay at the way in which some absentee owners show contempt for a loyal, hard-working work force, uprooting them and moving them overseas? If she does, would she be kind enough to arrange a meeting with me to discuss the particular problem of a company that may be contemplating doing just that?

I am aware of the company in the hon. Gentleman’s constituency, and I am happy to meet him to discuss it. Many foreign companies invest in the UK. We have become the location of choice for many such companies, especially those that are trying to establish headquarters somewhere in Europe. Many choose the UK, and we should encourage that because it is good for British jobs and for the UK’s wealth.

Is my right hon. Friend aware of the announcement today by MBDA? It is getting rid of 170 manufacturing jobs at Lostock in the constituency adjoining Chorley. Specialist skills in missile technology will not be able to be replicated in the future as and when we need a new missile. These companies such as MBDA come round MPs demanding support and loyalty, talking about investment in the UK and supporting British workers, yet today we have the sad announcement that 170 people will lose their jobs. It is not good enough. What can the Government do?

Again, I share the concern that my hon. Friend has expressed on behalf of his constituents and those who work for the company. I am happy to meet him to discuss the particulars of the situation that he faces. In the end, companies take commercial decisions. What we need to do, and are doing in the Companies Bill that is currently before the House, is to ensure that we have the conditions in the UK to encourage sustainable investment that will bring jobs to the UK and add wealth to the economy.

I am astonished that the hon. Member for Colchester (Bob Russell) thinks that by asking a company to talk to quangos in the UK he is going to stop it from quitting the country. I simply do not know what planet he is on.

Is it not the case that Britain has slipped down the competitiveness league, and that we have to address that problem, which is yet another reason why the tax reform commission that we announced today is so important? In order to create inward investment instead of a flight of capital, will the Minister now announce policies to rebuild Britain’s brand image abroad in a simple and effective way through UK Trade and Investment and, indeed, through our own competitive merits, and put an end to the absurd practice of all our regional agencies costing a fortune by having competing offices in the likes of Shanghai?

I am puzzled by that contribution. I assume that the Opposition have now decided to abolish the regional development agencies as a contribution to finding £21 billion of cuts to fund their tax reductions. I take a much more optimistic, pro-British view of the way we are performing on inward investment. The most recent World Bank report “Doing business in 2007” says that the UK is the best country in the whole of Europe for inward investment. We are one of the top two EU member states on employment law, with Denmark higher. We are in the top two in Europe in terms of protection for investors. We are joint second in the EU for the ease of paying taxes. That is a good record, which encourages foreign investment. It is not the poor record that the hon. Gentleman seeks to describe; he does down businesses and employees in the UK.