HC Deb 04 November 1992 vol 213 cc271-3
7. Mr. Flynn

To ask the President of the Board of Trade what new proposals he has to discourage British firms from relocating overseas.

Mr. Sainsbury

It is for British firms to make their own decisions about where to locate.

Mr. Flynn

Is it not true that the Government do not even count the number of jobs lost to this country abroad? Is it not rather like trying to fill a bath by watching the water coming in and failing to notice that the plug has been pulled out and that jobs are syphoning off to other countries? From Cwmbran and Pontypool and from Inmos in my constituency thousands of jobs have gone to other continental countries because of lack of investment in British industry. Is it not true that the Minister's Department has done nothing every day for the past six months to help British industry before breakfast, before dinner and before supper and that he has got up the next morning and done nothing again? When will the Government show the same faith in British industry as the Italian, the Belgian and the German Governments?

Mr. Sainsbury

I can appreciate why the hon. Member is concerned about potential job losses from a factory in his own constituency, but he has made some extraordinarily wild and inaccurate allegations about the alleged support available elsewhere, and he seems totally to overlook the massive number of jobs created in this country by inward investors, not just from the United States, Japan or the far east but from other parts of Europe, coming here because we create the right environment to encourage enterprise.

Mr. Nicholas Winterton

I hope that my right hon. Friend will accept that the 500 jobs created in Prestwick in Scotland represent a direct transfer of jobs from Woodford which is located on the periphery of my constituency. That may be considered as transferring jobs overseas, I am not sure, but will my hon. Friend accept that many major manufacturing industries in the United Kingdom are transferring thousands of jobs to other parts of the world, particularly to the Indian subcontinent and the Pacific basin and, in doing so, are transferring and shipping to those countries not only the jobs but the highly sophisticated, modern machinery which will then be used in employing people in those countries to compete against manufacturers in this country?

When will the Government realise that manufacturing industry is the only source of non-inflationary economic growth and that we need an industrial strategy now. not tomorrow?

Mr. Sainsbury

I am sure that the whole House is well aware of the great interest that my hon. Friend takes in manufacturing industry. Because of that interest he will be aware that not just in this year or this decade or even this century it has been the pattern of manufacturing industry to diversify and invest in other countries. There has always been change. Without it, we cannot have an effective and competitive manufacturing industry.

Mr. Bell

But even the Minister of State will accept that investment abroad is not covering the balance of payments deficit on our manufactured exports. The Government's policy over the past 13 years has failed. It is no longer good enough for the Minister to come to the Dispatch Box and say that it is up to British industry to locate where it will. When the Single European Act comes into force on 1 January we will be looking for investment in this country by British firms in British industry, in British goods and in British jobs. Where will the Department of Trade and Industry be? Will it be on the coat tails of the Treasury?

Mr. Sainsbury

I do not know what British industry would think of the hon. Gentleman's suggestion that it is not good enough for the Department of Trade and Industry to say that industry can make its own decisions about where to invest. Does the hon. Gentleman want to bring back industrial development certificates?

Mr. John Marshall

Is not industry more likely to locate in Britain because of low corporate taxes, low interest rates and the fact that the social chapter does not apply here?

Mr. Sainsbury

My hon. Friend is right, and our success in attracting inward investment, to which my right hon. and hon. Friends have already referred, is evidence of that. If one thing could deter any inward investor in Britain it would be imposing the social chapter upon British industry.

Forward to