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Foreign Direct Investment

Volume 629: debated on Thursday 12 October 2017

The Department supports foreign investment in all parts of the United Kingdom through our overseas network, international events programme, bespoke sector support, online services and regional teams. We serve the whole UK by working closely with investment promotion bodies in the devolved Administrations and local enterprise partnerships in England to co-operate effectively across a range of investment support activities.

We have already heard positive news this morning about Toyota and Nissan. Will the Minister join me in welcoming recent work by EMY Consulting which proves that the United Kingdom remains the most attractive place in Europe for foreign direct investment?

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. We have seen some truly amazing numbers coming in. Britain has a record number of inward investment projects, and it is worth bearing in mind the fact that 158,000 jobs have been created and a further 66,000 safeguarded over the past year or so as a result of foreign direct investment.

I am very happy for the Minister to go around the world selling Britain, but will he come to see the real economy in, for instance, Huddersfield, where we have a strong manufacturing sector, or Leeds, where we have a financial sector? Not one person I meet in those sectors wants us to continue with this folly of Brexit. [Interruption.]

Yes, what about all those voters throughout the UK, 52% of whom voted for Brexit? I was a remainer, but we have to uphold the fundamental principle of democracy in this country, and it is the job of all of us in the Government to do our level best to embrace the opportunities—the optimistic opportunities—that Brexit presents.

I thank the Minister for coming to my constituency and talking to my exporters and the Port of Felixstowe, and ask him to assure me that he took on board the takeout that they want us to be oven ready with regulations and so forth as we look to move out of the common market.

It was a great pleasure to visit Muntons in my hon. Friend’s constituency. Her constituency produces a huge number of ingredients that go into Scottish whisky, beer and any number of fantastic products across the country. It is absolutely right that in addressing the question of regulations going forward into a post-Brexit era we in this country maintain our incredibly high standards of regulation, including workers’ rights as well as food standards.

The Minister is assuring his hon. Friend that he is indeed oven ready. That is a new one on me; the hon. Lady has very helpfully added to the collective lexicon of the House of Commons.

Why do the Government not draw a clearer distinction between inward foreign investment, which adds capacity and jobs and is welcome, and inward investment for acquisitions in devalued pounds, which often detracts from our science and technology?

The leader of the Liberal Democrats raises a very important point in respect of looking at the statistics. He is absolutely right that fresh investment that comes into this country that creates and safeguards jobs must be disaggregated from, say, stock market transactions, where there is a significant investment in that type of thing. We are looking very carefully at how to disaggregate these two types of investment to get a much clearer picture, but he raises an important point and I assure him that the Department’s economists are looking at this.

In the 12 months since the EU referendum in 2016, 32 Israeli companies have invested in new business ventures in the UK, bringing an increase in capital investment of 32% from that country. Does that not demonstrate, first, a strong vote of confidence in the UK economy, and, secondly, that Israel should be a natural partner for any future free trade agreement?

Indeed. I have visited Israel; we do a lot of trade with it, and the investment it is making in this country is very welcome. Importantly, since the Brexit vote, a huge number of investment projects are coming to the UK, which is creating new jobs. Doom mongers like me who during the referendum were part of the “Project Fear” campaign have been proved wrong, and it is important that we stand up and say that so far we have not got this right, and that is incredibly good news for both Britain and our individual constituencies.

The Government’s own figures show a 9% drop in the number of new jobs created through foreign direct investment projects and a record trade deficit in goods exports. In the real world, that means thousands of workers losing their jobs, as we have seen at BAE Systems. Does the Minister accept that it will take a fully aligned trade and industrial strategy to protect jobs in this country? The current policy of relying on a falling pound is simply not good enough.

I would refer the hon. Gentleman to the fact that we now have record numbers of people in work, record employment and record low unemployment. None the less, he raises an important point on the relationship between this Department and the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy. It is absolutely the case that in creating a pitch book for the UK, we must offer a number of different opportunities for companies around the world. Part of that is our tax regime, part of it is our tax credits regime, and part of it is our enthusiasm to legislate, for example, to allow autonomous vehicles to be tested on all British roads. This is a whole package from the entire Government working together. The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right to raise the industrial strategy as part of what we are presenting to the rest of the world, but this also involves the whole Government.