HC Deb 28 January 1969 vol 776 cc1079-81
4. Mr. Ridley

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer if, in the light of the Reddaway Report, he will introduce legislation to remove the fiscal discouragement to direct investment overseas.

33. Mr. Kenneth Baker

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer, in view of the conclusions of the Reddaway Report on the medium-term beneficial effects of overseas investment on the United Kingdom balance of payments, whether he will review the restrictions placed upon such investment in 1965.

46. Sir G. Nabarro

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer what steps he is taking to implement the recommendations of the Reddaway Report, notably concerning overseas investments.

The Chief Secretary to the Treasury (Mr. John Diamond)

I would like to take this opportunity to thank Mr. Reddaway and his colleagues. Their Report is a valuable contribution to the analysis of the return on alternative uses of resources and deserves careful study.

But it does not call for any modification of the Government's policies in this field. The authors accept that direct controls of overseas investment may be necessary at times of balance of payments pressure, and their conclusions contain nothing to justify more favourable tax treatment of direct investment abroad.

Mr. Ridley

Is the Chief Secretary aware that he has come to the wrong conclusion? Is he aware that the Reddaway Report and the Economic Research Council document, just published, make it abundantly clear that this Government have been living on the "tick" earned by foreign investment overseas? Will he now take immediate steps, in view of this wrong diagnosis and fiscal discouragements on overseas investments, to remove these fiscal discouragements?

Mr. Diamond

There is nothing in what the hon. Gentleman has said which would cause me to alter my view, nor are there any fiscal discouragements. The fiscal system is neutral for overseas investment.

Mr. Baker

Would the right hon. Gentleman not agree that the Reddaway Committee found two things: first, that overseas investment pays off in 11 years, and then constitutes a net inflow into our invisible earnings, and secondly that home capital is not hit by investment overseas? In view of these two conclusions, will he not relax tax restrictions upon overseas investments?

Mr. Diamond

May I repeat, there are no tax restrictions. The tax system is designed to be completely neutral. There were certain tax incentives, advantages, which have been removed.

Sir G. Nabarro

Is it not a fact, leaving aside the fiscal disincentives to overseas investment, that the policy of the present Government, manifest now for four years, and evidently as it will be projected in future, will mean the total abandonment of British overseas investment, if continued?

Mr. Diamond

No. The hon. Gentleman is quite wrong on both points. The first point I have dealt with twice, and I will not insult the House by making it a third time. As to his second point, the present arrangements under exchange control and under the voluntary programme are designed to give preferential treatment to the most promising projects. That is the policy, that will continue to be the policy.

Mr. Henig

Will my right hon. Friend confirm that investment in British industry is much more beneficial, for the long-term economic growth of this country, than investment abroad?

Mr. Diamond

I have given the figures on many occasions.

Mr. Patrick Jenkin

Is the Chief Secretary aware that having heard his answers, the House will come to the conclusion that it will now have to wait until a Tory Government does justice to this question of overseas investment? Does he recognise that part of that programme of reform would involve the reform of the whole structure of Corporation Tax?

Mr. Diamond

This House is a very patient place, but not as patient as all that.

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