HC Deb 17 February 1993 vol 219 cc310-1
9. Mr. Riddick

To ask the President of the Board of Trade what steps his Department is taking to encourage inward investment.

Mr. Heseltine

My Department's Invest in Britain Bureau runs a comprehensive programme for promoting the United Kingdom overseas. Lord Walker, who advises me on inward investment, is helping me to consider how we can step up our efforts to make them as effective as possible.

Mr. Riddick

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the OECD has forecast that Britain is likely to increase its share of world trade this year? Is not one reason for that, as Jacques Delors said, that Britain has become a paradise for overseas investment and is not that because the Government have tackled the excessive power of the trade unions and refused to sign the job-destroying social chapter? Is not that in stark contrast with the union-dominated Labour party, which seems to believe that only the state can generate economic growth—a view which not even the Russians believe nowadays?

Mr. Heseltine

My hon. Friend is right on that specific point, but, of course, there are many other reasons why this is now the most attractive part of the single market in which to invest. It is because of the Government's policies that 36.1 per cent. of American and 40.9 per cent. of Japanese direct investment in the European Economic Community comes to the United Kingdom.

Mr. Eastham

Although it is essential to encourage investment from abroad, may I impress on the Secretary of State a recent document produced by the Engineering Employers Federation? It is a most scathing report about the lack of support from the Government. Is it not about time that we also encouraged our industries so that they can participate and benefit, thereby increasing manufacturing in Britain?

Mr. Heseltine

That is a travesty of the views of the EEF with which I had a lengthy discussion last night. If the hon. Gentleman genuinely wants to encourage inward investment into this country he should persuade his party not to put the costs of the social chapter on British industry.

Mr. Streeter

Is my right hon. Friend aware that inward investment in the far south-west is largely dependent on the critical Plymouth-Heathrow airlink? Is he further aware that the airlink is increasingly under threat because of the increasing squeeze on regional services at Heathrow? Will he confirm that his Department will take whatever action is necessary to protect the Heathrow slot?

Mr. Heseltine

I know how important that issue is to my hon. Friend. I have no doubt that on my visit to the south-west later this week I shall hear more about it. We are in touch with the Department of Transport, but, as my hon. Friend will be aware, in the end much of the decision making lies with the private sector.

Mr. Gunnell

Does the Secretary of State agree that Japanese companies that come to this country in general bring with them very good working practices, usually including a negotiated agreement with a trade union and agreed conditions of work which far exceed those laid down in the social chapter? In those circumstances, will the Secretary of State explain how the social chapter can possibly be a deterrent to companies that, at home, implement working conditions of a higher standard?

Mr. Heseltine

It is not the working conditions but the working costs imposed by the social chapter which will be the deterrent.