HC Deb 13 July 1988 vol 137 cc342-4
2. Mr. Butler

To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster if he will make a statement on the role and extent of foreign investment in the economy of the north-west.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Industry (Mr. Robert Atkins)

There are over 600 overseas owned firms operating in the north-west, making a major contribution to the region's employment and output. In addition, as elsewhere in the United Kingdom, new inward investment brings wider benefits through innovation in products, technologies and management practices, as well as generating additional demand for local sub-contractors and component suppliers.

Mr. Butler

With 75 American companies in Warrington-Runcorn alone, does that not provide much-needed employment and wealth in the north-west, and should that not be encouraged rather than narrow mindedly dismissed?

Mr. Atkins

My hon. Friend is, as ever, right in drawing attention to the fact that the north-west is a success story. In particular, Warrington-Runcorn in his constituency is the jewel in that success story. I congratulate him on the work that he has done to encourage further investment in that area.

Mr. James Lamond

If the Minister is so keen on inward investment, why does he not give a little more encouragement to initiatives such as that taken by Oldham metropolitan borough council, which is organising a trade mission to China, but which has received little support from the Government despite the desperate need to bring investment and jobs to the area?

Mr. Atkins

As a senior and distinguished Opposition Member, the hon. Gentleman will know that the organisation called INWARD is well involved in encouraging inward investment in Britain. It is not difficult to go to China to encourage inward investment. Preston borough council, which is also Labour-controlled, recently sent a delegation to do just that. If the hon. Gentleman has particular difficulties in relation to Oldham with which I am not immediately familiar, and he cares to write to me, I shall be more than happy to look into the possibilities to which he draws attention.

Mr. Burt

My hon. Friend will be aware that foreign investment brings greater employment. He may also be aware that unemployment in my constituency is now down to about 7.5 per cent. Does he agree that if Opposition Members truly wish to encourage more enterprise and jobs in the north-west they should concentrate on talking about the positive aspects of the north-west, instead of the negative, which they so often portray?

Mr. Atkins

My hon. Friend is right. The north-west is booming at the moment. Hon. Members on both sides of the House have plenty of examples to demonstrate that fact. If the Opposition drew the same attention to it as do my hon. Friend and many of my other hon. Friends from the north-west, the virtues and strengths of the north-west could provide an even better future.

Mr. Alton

Is not a properly trained and skilled work force one of the keys to attracting more inward investment to the north-west? Therefore, does the Minister agree that it will be disadvantageous to our prospects of attracting new industry if the employment training initiatives are turned away by some local authorities in the north-west, particularly Liverpool, where some £30 million-worth of Government funds and some 16,000 employment training places are at risk as a result of the turning away of training opportunities?

Mr. Atkins

The hon. Gentleman makes an excellent point in his own way. I do not have particular responsibility for the training initiative, but the hon. Gentleman is right. I and many other Members of Parliament from the north-west think that the work force there is one of the best and most flexible in Britain. Given the right training, management and encouragement, it can do anything that it sets out to achieve.