19. Mr. H. Wilson
asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer the total dollar receipts accruing over the past six months in respect of United States purchases of the equity, or a substantial proportion of the equity, in United Kingdom firms, or by the sale to United States investors of British owned United States concerns, distinguishing the amounts received in security sterling and in dealings across the exchanges, respectively.
We do not, of course, have details of all purchases through the Stock Exchanges, but if, as I imagine, the right hon. Gentleman has in mind the big cases which have come to public notice, the total dollar receipts over the last six months are about £15 million. This was received across the exchanges.
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that this figure is somewhat smaller than that quoted last week in the City columns of The Times, although that may be on a different basis? Is he aware that we are concerned not so much with the total value of the exchanges as with the fact that some important British firms are passing into American control?
The difference, as the right hon. Member can imagine, probably arises mainly from the fact that a great deal of these payments have been made through the security sterling market, which, of course, does not involve a receipt in dollars.
Does that mean that the Chancellor does not necessarily quarrel with the estimate published in the financial papers and that about £100 million in dollar exchanges is probably about right?
It is extremely difficult to estimate what will have been done through the security market, but if the right hon. Member cares to put down a Question I shall give the best information I can.
20. Mr. H. Wilson
asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer the number of firms in respect of whom more than one third of the equity has been sold or otherwise transferred to foreign owners during the past six months, the total value of such transactions, and the number of firms resident overseas in respect of which more than one third of the equity has been so transferred.
This information is not available because we do not have details of Stock Exchange transactions.
While we recognise that to dispose of important British firms to American concerns is fully in accordance with the Trinidad tradition established by the Prime Minister, is the Chancellor aware of the very deep concern about the fact that this practice appears to be growing in this country? Is he equally aware of the concern felt, at any rate on this side of the House, at the rather flippant way in which the Economic Secretary to the Treasury seemed to suggest that there was no cause for alarm or action by the Government?
I certainly do not think that there is any cause for alarm or action on account of anything that has happened to date. It is very much in the interests of this country that there should be as free a flow of capital as possible both ways. We ourselves want to take advantage of opportunities to invest in other countries. That being so, it would be wholly wrong on our part to deny reasonable facilities for investment on the part of foreign countries in this country.
§ Mr. Edelman
Is the Chancellor aware that at an industrial conference in Coventry on Saturday the workers expressed great alarm and anxiety lest control of policy should pass from Westminster and Coventry to Wall Street and Detroit in view of the impending take-over bid for the Standard Tractor Works? Can the right hon. Gentleman give some guarantee that when he authorises such transactions he takes account of public policy, with particular 202 regard to the employment of the workers concerned who, as one in Coventry said, cannot be taken over like 3,000 cattle?
I can give the hon. Member the assurance that whenever a particular application comes in under the Exchange Control Act all relevant considerations affecting the national interest are taken into consideration. To get the matter into perspective, I should remind hon. Members that the amount of net investment we have made abroad enormously exceeds any net foreign investment made in this country over recent years. Even taking North America alone, I should say that the amount of new investment the United Kingdom has made in the United States and Canada together is probably equal to the total of new North American investment in this country.
§ Mr. Beswick
Can the Chancellor say why members of his party making propaganda speeches throughout the country attacking the Labour Party proposals to invest British capital in British firms make no protest at all about investment by Americans in this way?