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Foreign Direct Investment

Volume 672: debated on Thursday 5 March 2020

4. What recent assessment she has made of the potential contribution of future foreign direct investment to the economy of each region of the UK. (901119)

17. What recent assessment she has made of the potential contribution of future foreign direct investment to the economy of each region of the UK. (901136)

18. What recent assessment she has made of the potential contribution of future foreign direct investment to the economy of each region of the UK. (901137)

Winning further foreign direct investment is crucial to the delivery of rising living standards and the levelling up of left-behind communities up and down the land. Companies such as Ferrero, in the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Amber Valley (Nigel Mills), which exports wonderful, quality chocolate all over the world, will potentially benefit, as will other UK chocolate producers, as a result of our UK-US free trade agreement.

I thank the Minister for that answer, and I join him in valuing the investment that Ferrero has brought to the old Thorntons factory. Most of the large employers in my constituency have had FDI at some point or other in their history, so what more can the Government do to ensure that that investment is spread out evenly across the country, and is not just focused in London and the south-east?

I thank my hon. Friend for that question, because FDI is so important to the UK. Foreign-owned firms represent only 1% of businesses, yet they contribute 22% of economic output and deliver 15% of employment. My Department uses our regional teams right around the country, and in 110 countries around the world, to make sure that we get that message out. Only yesterday, I hosted a meeting with regional leaders from right across the UK at No. 10 to show the importance we attach, as my hon. Friend does, to sharing these FDI benefits right across the country.

Does the Minister agree with me and with residents of Carshalton and Wallington that instead of talking down London, as the current Mayor does, we should be supporting Shaun Bailey’s idea to put in a deputy Mayor for trade to make sure that London remains a destination with one of the highest levels of FDI in the world, to attract businesses and entrepreneurs?

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for that. I think the people of London want a Mayor who makes things happen, who is a champion of business and who recognises that, for all the wealth in London, there are too many people left behind. We need a Mayor who gets on with the job—one who does not act like a commentator but who actually acts like a leader.

Does my hon. Friend agree that free ports will help to attract significant foreign investment, and regenerate and create jobs in some of our communities and deprived areas?

I thank my hon. Friend for his question, on which he is right. He is constantly championing the interests of his area, not least because of the need for regeneration. Free ports offer that opportunity. We are in constant talks with The Bristol Port Company, and I know that he is working closely with the West of England Mayor to make sure that that regeneration and the benefits of FDI are brought to his part of the country, with all the prosperity and employment benefits that that will bring.

The Minister will be aware of the concerns of businesses and, in particular, of producers supporting our regional economies about the impact of the proposed most favoured nation tariffs on their capacity to attract investment in new technology that is essential for our transition to net zero. What assessment has he made of the impact of the proposed measures on the UK’s attractiveness as a destination for investment, particularly in new green technology?

I thank the hon. Lady for her question. The consultation closes tonight and we are determined to get the right balance. We are clear that we are going to have a tariff regime that benefits UK consumers and business, and allows us to align ourselves most effectively to where 90% of global growth is expected by the International Monetary Fund to be in the next five years or so, which is outside Europe.

I thank the Minister for that answer, but he is not addressing the specific concern that the tariff schedule could hurt domestic producers by stifling FDI in precisely the places in the country that need it most. Are the Government really going to ignore industry concerns, potentially costing jobs?

I would have hoped that, after sufficient time in the House, the hon. Lady might have understood how a consultation worked. The consultation closes today, and I cannot comment on a consultation that has not yet closed. What I can tell her is that, as she will be delighted to hear, under this Government the UK has attracted more FDI than any other country in Europe. Indeed, we have attracted more FDI in aggregate than Germany and France combined. If she and her colleagues on the Labour Front Bench were to support business and enterprise in the way we do, instead of opposing them, we might see more jobs and prosperity.

With Northern Ireland being recognised as the cyber-security capital of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, will the Minister outline what steps are being taken to highlight this massive international market?

As I said in an earlier answer, I was pleased to meet Northern Ireland representatives in No. 10 Downing Street yesterday. When I visited Belfast last year, I learnt more about the phenomenal tech, and in particular cyber, capability there is in Belfast. The Department is determined to make sure that the message of how investable and how strong Northern Ireland is, and what great capability it has, is understood through all our posts in countries around the world.

There has been a huge amount of foreign direct investment in the financial services sector, not only in London but throughout the regions and in Scotland. Can my hon. Friend assure me that, in all free trade negotiations, the interests of the financial services sector will be protected?

I thank my hon. Friend, who characteristically puts her finger on an important point. Services have too often not had sufficient focus in trade agreements. We are very much looking to put financial services, data and other elements at the heart of our trade policy, which will be great for the City of London. However, it is important to note that there are more people working in financial services in the northern powerhouse than there are in the whole of Frankfurt.