HC Deb 27 November 1991 vol 199 cc907-8
12. Mr. William Powell

To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what recent representations he has received from business men about the impact of the Trades Union Congress's attitude to Japanese inward investment into the United Kingdom.

Mr. Lilley

I recently met the Japanese Keidanren when they visited this country, and I reassured them that the Government continue to welcome and support Japanese investment in this country.

Mr. Powell

Can my right hon. Friend confirm that the level of Japanese investment in this country runs into billions of pounds and that it underpins tens of thousands of jobs directly and a great many more indirectly? Is not my right hon. Friend absolutely astonished at the failure of the Leader of the Opposition to condemn the absurd criticisms made of that investment by the Trades Union Congress?

Mr. Lilley

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. Japanese investment in this country has been enormously valuable to us and it is vital that it should continue. The resolution of the Trades Union Congress, which was passed by an overwhelming majority, was damaging to that prospect. However, most scandalous of all is the failure of the Opposition's spokesmen on industry and on employment, when given the opportunity, to dissociate themselves from it. Even now they talk among themselves to hide their embarrassment. I should happily give way—if it were in my power to do so—to give them the opportunity to dissociate themselves from that appalling motion.

Mr. Tom Clarke

Does the Secretary of State recall that although he gave an account of meetings with the Japanese, the question asked specifically what representations he had received from business men? Will he reply to the question?

Mr. Lilley

When I was in the north-east, there was particular concern among business men whom I met because the north-east in particular has benefited greatly from Japanese investment and it does not want investors to be frightened off. Many British companies, including the one that I visited yesterday, sell very satisfactorily to Japanese companies in this country and that provides a vast market for supplier companies. They are concerned, which makes it all the more alarming that the Opposition Front-Bench spokesmen continue to sit on their backsides and endorse the TUC's policy.

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