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Inward Investment

Volume 542: debated on Thursday 15 March 2012

In December 2011 the Office for National Statistics reported a record stock of foreign direct investment in the UK at £731 billion. The Government are determined to continue to improve the UK business environment to make us a global investment location of choice. The recent major automotive investment by Nissan and the expansion of Jaguar Land Rover are very good examples of that.

I am grateful to the Secretary of State for that answer. Attracting inward investment is going to be a key element of aiding our economic recovery. Will he inform the House of any figures he might have showing how the United Kingdom is doing in this area compared with the rest of Europe?

Britain is the third-best attractor in the world of direct foreign investment and the leading country in Europe. That remains the case; indeed, the position has been strengthened by the decisions we have taken over the past 18 months.

I draw attention to my entry in the Register of Members’ Financial Interests. The Secretary of State knows that this news is very welcome throughout the House and that we are delighted to see new jobs and production coming to the UK. I gather that JLR is doing that at Halewood, as well as Nissan, which is great news. Is there a danger, however, that the money for the investments being supported by the Government could be coming from the regional growth fund? If that is the case, will he confirm that there will be enough funds in it? Is there a danger of the smaller companies that are applying being crowded out? It is a challenge fund, as he knows, and on those grounds even very good and worthwhile projects could be rejected.

The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right that the regional growth fund played an important part in key decisions such as Nissan’s decision to expand its operation in the UK. There is, of course, a limited amount of money; it is a challenge fund. It is because we recognise that the regional growth fund is a very valuable source of funding that we have extended it by a further £1 billion, and there is currently a new process of application taking place.

We are rightly hearing a lot about the special and essential relationship between the UK and the US this week, but one of the other special and essential relationships the UK has is with India. Does the Secretary of State agree that growing inward investment into the UK from countries such as India clearly demonstrates the success of UK Trade & Investment’s inward investment strategy?

Indeed, and I am flying out to India tonight to pursue this issue—I think it will be my third visit since I became Secretary of State. I shall be making exactly that point—that Indian investment in the UK is extremely welcome. We are attracting more such investment and leading Indian companies such as Tata and Sahavirya Steel Industries are absolutely valuable to our economic recovery.

But it is not just about increasing inward investment; it is about retaining it. I welcome the Secretary of State’s statement about the automotive industry and the increased inward investment, but there are persistent rumours that there might well be reductions in inward investment in parts of the automotive industry. What actions is the Secretary of State taking to retain that investment and to retain jobs in this country?

The hon. Gentleman’s starting point was a positive one and a right one. I understand that production in the automotive industry has increased by 20% over the past year, and a lot of that is due to inward investors. If he is referring to uncertainties about the future, I am of course well aware of the problems surrounding General Motors. Within the Government, I am working very closely with the Minister of State, Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, my colleague the Member for Hertford and Stortford (Mr Prisk). I was in the United States two weeks ago talking to the chairman and chief executive about that. I have to say that the Government, the trade unions and the British management have put forward an extremely powerful case not just for staying in the UK but for expanding.