HC Deb 27 June 1991 vol 193 cc1125-6
8. Mr. Ian Taylor

To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what proportion of inward investment in the EC during 1990 was in the United Kingdom.

Mr. Mellor

Latest available estimates, based on a study by the European Community, show that between 1984 and 1988 the United Kingdom received about one third of all inward direct investment to the EC, which was higher than any other member state. The United Kingdom received 34 per cent., France received 18 per cent., and Germany received 2 per cent.

Mr. Taylor

Those figures are extremely encouraging. Could I add to them the announcement made yesterday by the Invest in Britain Bureau that in the 12 months to March this year it recorded 350 new projects set up by foreign companies in Britain? That is because under the Conservative Government we have had enterprise, sensible taxation policies and the ability to train people in new skills. Does my right hon. and learned Friend agree that that means that we need continuity of Conservative government in Britain and demonstrates the importance of not closing off any options in the discussions on economic and monetary union and of ensuring that Britain is not isolated?

Mr. Mellor

Plainly, the current level of investment reflects international confidence in the government of the United Kingdom. Inward investment in 1988 was £10 billion. In 1990 it was £19 billion. It will be of significance to those who are anxious to see regional development that between 1987 and 1990 50 per cent. of the jobs created through foreign inward investment were in Scotland, Wales and the north-east. Although those regions are responsible for only 20 per cent. of our gross domestic product, they received 50 per cent. of the extra jobs. That is a sign of the benefit to the regions of international confidence in the Government.

Mr. Wigley

On that very point, the Chief Secretary is clearly aware that some 15 to 20 per cent. of inward investment has come to Wales in the past two to three years. Does he accept that that illustrates not only the advantageous position of Wales as a location for new investment, but the importance of regional policy and especially of institutions such as the Welsh Office and the Welsh Development Agency? Will he give a commitment that the Government appreciate the importance of those institutions and will allow them to develop and flourish?

Mr. Mellor

I am grateful for what the hon. Gentleman says. It is a tribute to the people of Wales that once investment has arrived it is so successful. Demanding companies such as the Japanese companies have found the Welsh work force extremely attractive and are investing more and more on the basis of their experience. Wales has attracted that investment by virtue of the skills and application of the people of Wales and the assistance that the Welsh Office and other agencies have given, but the key point is that now that Wales has achieved the most diversified economy that the Principality has ever had, it would be foolish to put that at risk by electing a Government who would fail to retain that international confidence.

Mr. Soames

What words of comfort can my right hon. Friend offer to major corporations that are willing and anxious to make substantial investments in this country but dare not do so at present because of their horror at the possibility, however, unlikely, of the election of a Labour Government? Will he confirm that if and when the Conservatives are re-elected we shall continue with the policies of enterprise and endeavour that have restored the prosperity of this nation?

Mr. Mellor

I am glad to hear a regional voice from the Conservative Benches, too, and I agree with my hon. Friend. The key questions that people ask concern the impact of a minimum wage on British labour costs and the impact of Labour's tax increases on the effectiveness of British management and the ability to work in Britain rather than overseas. Those issues are the key to the maintenance of our position as a receptacle of major international investment.