HC Deb 13 February 1995 vol 254 cc648-50
4. Mr. Nigel Evans

To ask the Secretary of State for Wales what plans he has to encourage further inward investment into Wales.

Mr. Redwood

I intend to promote Wales vigorously as a centre for inward investment. Low inflation, low interest rates and a skilled and flexible work force are their own advertisements, but I intend to ensure that the world knows about them and that more investors will come to Wales.

Mr. Evans

Wales has always had a good inward investment record that is envied by all. What does the Secretary of State think would happen to inward investment if Britain went down the cul-de-sac of devolution or signed up to the social chapter and introduced a minimum wage?

Mr. Redwood

Extra taxes, which could result from devolution, would be extremely damaging to inward investment in Wales as it would go elsewhere in the United Kingdom that was not similarly burdened. It is vital to Britain that we do not have the social chapter. That is why we get more than our fair share of inward investment into the Community and why we wish to carry on in that happy state.

Mr. Denzil Davies

Are not major proposals for inward investment from abroad dealt with mainly by the Invest in Britain Bureau, which is a responsibility of the Department of Trade and Industry, the industry Department for England? Where does the Welsh Office fit into the structure?

Mr. Redwood

The right hon. Gentleman is misinformed: the bureau helps the whole of the United Kingdom. He should know that the Welsh Development Agency is also strongly involved in the promotion of Wales and that it works closely with British agencies. The success is there for all to see. Why has Wales done so well if the right hon. Gentleman is right in saying that the structure does not work?

Mr. Jenkin

Does my right hon. Friend think it likely that Britain's failure to participate in a single European currency will threaten the flow of inward investment into Wales?

Mr. Redwood

The Government have made it clear that we do not foresee a single currency in 1995, 1996 or 1997 and that we would not join one in those years. We obviously do not think that it would damage our inward investment prospects during that time, and that is the Government's clear decision.

Mr. Ieuan Wyn Jones

Does not the Secretary of State recognise that the continuing deep Cabinet split over the issue of a single currency is extremely damaging to the future of inward investment in Wales? Does the right hon. Gentleman agree with the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who said that it is quite possible to have monetary union without political union, or will he follow the Euro-sceptic line in Wales, wrap himself in the Union Jack and totally disregard our needs?

Mr. Redwood

I am very happy with the leadership that the Prime Minister has offered in his speeches and interviews on the subject, which made the situation absolutely crystal clear.

The hon. Gentleman will be pleased to know that it is certainly not putting off inward investors. For example, Ringtel, the first serious Taiwanese investor in 'Wales, announced today that it will create 100 jobs. I hope that he welcomes that news. It shows that inward investors do not take what is written in the newspapers as seriously as Labour Members. Investors recognise that Britain is the right place in which to invest and that we have the right policy for trade with Europe and the rest of the world.

Mr. Morgan

What will be the impact on inward investment from Europe, now that the United Kingdom, which is supposed to be united, is governed by a Tory party that is clearly disunited? The Secretary of State has come out blatantly as a member of the anti-Europe party within the Cabinet and has made clear his visceral antipathy to anything European—even European investment in Wales.

Mr. Redwood

I am not sure that there was a question amid that ranting. We are all Europeans. Britain is in Europe geographically and by its membership of various European institutions. We benefit from those institutions and from the strength of our position as world and European traders. I am much in favour of that, as I trust are Opposition Members.

Lady Olga Maitland

Does my right hon. Friend agree that the Americans are the leading investors in Wales, accounting for 25 per cent. of inward investment? Interestingly and by contrast, the figure for the Japanese is 7 per cent.

Mr. Redwood

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. The American relationship is crucial to our success. The Americans have been the leading investors in Wales for many years, increasingly followed by the Japanese. We welcome investors from all over the world but recognise the importance of the American link to our current and future prosperity.

Mr. Donald Anderson

Is it not also crucial that the Americans and Japanese see Britain as a continuing member of the European Union? When the Secretary of State is ready to parade his anti-European prejudices, would it not be helpful if he paused and reflected on that fact and perhaps bit his tongue?

Mr. Redwood

The hon. Gentleman did not quote anything that I have said, so clearly he does not have a juicy quotation to sustain his point, which was of course a non-point. We benefit from membership of the European Union, NATO and, through the EU, GATT. All are important to our security and trading prospects, and we must get the best from them by negotiating for Britain in the right way. Many Opposition Members would give in before negotiating. We want to stand up for Britain and get the right deal, so that inward investors still come to us.