Skip to main content

Foreign Direct Investment

Volume 649: debated on Thursday 15 November 2018

The UK, I am pleased to say, remains the No. 1 destination in Europe for foreign direct investment. We have recently published analyses of the positive economic impact of FDI, which show the benefits of investment to the UK and how the Department is delivering national wealth by attracting investors to our key industries.

Foreign direct investment in the UK has been directly responsible for more than half a million jobs since 2010, including hundreds in my constituency. Whatever the shape of future trade policy, will the Minister assure me that, building on that figure, increasing our attractiveness to foreign direct investment remains a priority for this Government?

My hon. Friend is absolutely right—it is a priority of this Government to create even more high-paying jobs by making the UK the most business-friendly market in the world. The Labour party’s promise to seize the assets of foreign pension funds invested in the UK threatens our prosperity and the retirement of those around the world who have put their confidence in Britain.

In the past few years I have often thought that I live on a parallel planet to the Minister. That obviously is the case, because the senior people I meet from the United States, China and other major economies are not investing, or thinking of investing, in the United Kingdom, partly because of the uncertainty over Brexit and because, if we leave the European Union, they want a market of 650 million, not 65 million.

I can confirm that the hon. Gentleman does live in a parallel universe, but it is one that he shares with his Front Benchers. His parallel universe is entirely divorced from the reality that investors are coming to the UK. We are the No. 1 foreign direct investment destination in Europe. We have the largest stock, and that is why we have been able to support more than half a million new jobs since 2010. The biggest threat, investors tell me, is that of Labour coming to power.

During the referendum, “Project Fear” told us that global business interest in the UK would collapse if people voted to leave. Can the Minister confirm whether foreign direct investment has gone up or down since the referendum in June 2016?

I am glad to confirm to my hon. Friend that our stock of foreign direct investment has gone up. We remain the No. 1 destination in Europe and are seeing companies in so many sectors coming here. Investors have some concerns about Brexit but, as I have said, what they are really alarmed about is the prospect of Labour seizing their assets and destroying the job creation that investment brings.

May I associate myself with the Secretary of State’s remarks about Sir Jeremy Heywood?

I was delighted, if somewhat surprised, to see the Secretary of State at the Dispatch Box this morning. He and his Ministers have talked about a record number of FDI investments in the last full year, 2017, but he knows that, in value, it was actually the worst year for inward investment since 1994. Complacently, he celebrates the forecast by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development for the first half of 2018, but he knows that the UNCTAD report states that this reflects

“a surge in intra-firm loans”.

These are loans that are often used to minimise tax by creating an artificial debt shield and they create no new jobs in the UK. How many such intra-firm loans are in the FDI statistics, and what assessment has the Minister made of the reduction in tax receipts to the Exchequer as a result?

The UNCTAD figures that measure foreign direct investment showed the UK moving above the United States into third in the first six months of this year, but the hon. Gentleman is entirely right to say that they include intra-company loans. Any figures around flow should be treated with caution; the most important thing is the stock of foreign direct investment in this country. As my hon. Friend the Member for Kettering (Mr Hollobone) said, if we had listened to some, we would have expected divestment. There was no divestment; there were increases in investment. In the last year, if I may deal with what is most important to me and my constituents, there were 75,000 new jobs created by foreign direct investment.