HC Deb 08 February 1995 vol 254 cc342-3
20. Mr. Congdon

To ask the President of the Board of Trade what estimate he has made of jobs created or safeguarded by inward investment projects during 1994.

Mr. Heseltine

According to figures notified to my Department's Invest in Britain Bureau for the financial year 1993–94, almost 30,000 new jobs have been created and some 69,000 jobs safeguarded as a result of inward investment. Figures for the financial year 1994–95 will be available in June.

Mr. Congdon

I welcome those figures. Does my right hon. Friend agree that companies choose to invest here because of the favourable economic climate that has been created for business with flexible labour markets and a positive approach to deregulation? Would not all that be put fundamentally at risk if we imposed the unnecessary burdens of the social contract on businesses in Britain?

Mr. Heseltine

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. There is a surge of inward investment into Britain because it is perceived that it is the best place within the European Union in which to locate both service and manufacturing activities and, I am delighted to say, an increasing number of company headquarters and research and development facilities. With the Government's policy of maintaining the maximum competitiveness within the British economy and the European Union, we can build markedly on that success.

Mr. MacShane

The President of the Board of Trade is following the Prime Minister yesterday and in Question Time on Thursday in saying that the lack of a social chapter here has some impact on inward investment. The Prime Minister and the Secretary of State for Employment quoted Daimler-Benz extensively, saying that the chairman of Daimler-Benz decided to come to the United Kingdom because there was no social chapter. [Interruption.] I have his statement in German. He does not mention the social chapter, he does not mention Europe and he does not mention England. Will the President of the Board of Trade ask the Prime Minister and the Secretary of State for Employment when citing European business men at least to be accurate and not dishonest?

Mr. Heseltine

My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister is accurate in pointing out that European companies are flowing into every part of this country under our inward investment programme, because they know it is the best place to be. If we want to bring that to an end, all we have to do is replace this Government with the Labour party.

Mr. Quentin Davies

Can my right hon. Friend think of anything more likely to discourage foreign investment in this country, other than a Labour victory at the next general election, than sending a signal to the world that we are decoupling from future developments in the European Union?

Mr. Heseltine

My hon. Friend is perfectly correct to make the vital point that the inward investment we are attracting from outside the European Union and the rationalisation of investment within the EU are based on the United Kingdom's competitiveness within the European Union.

Dr. John Cunningham

As to inward investment, ABB invested £70 million in new technology at the carriage works at York—making it one of the most advanced factories of its kind in Europe. What does the President have to say to the workers and management of that plant, when it is threatened with closure because of the complete shambles caused by rail privatisation and the ending of British Rail orders from that works for new coaches? What signal does that shambles send to other companies about inward investment in the British economy?

Mr. Heseltine

I tell those people straight that, if they think that if Labour came to power it would bring to factories jobs for which there is no demand, they are even sillier to listen to the Labour party than I thought.

Mr. Jenkin

Should not my right hon. Friend be at pains to stress that if Britain opts out of the single currency, we will still be part of the single market? Would it not be better to spend £75 million on the Invest in Britain Bureau than to waste it on a speculative venture and the European Monetary Institute?

Mr. Heseltine

We are not faced with that decision. I am sure that my hon. Friend, with the wisdom that he brings to this as to all other matters, would want to be in possession of all the facts in all the circumstances before taking a decision.