HC Deb 24 April 1996 vol 276 cc422-3
5. Mr. Peter Bottomley

To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment if she will make a statement on the recent G7 summit. [25083]

The Secretary of State for Education and Employment (Mrs. Gillian Shephard)

All the G7 countries agreed on the need for stable macro-economic policies and for a more flexible and deregulated labour market. Those policies are in place in the United Kingdom, which is why we have a higher proportion of our people in jobs and fewer people out of work than most of the rest of Europe.

Mr. Bottomley

Did the Presidents, Prime Ministers and other Ministers of the G7 countries explain why countries outside Europe found many of their businesses investing here and why other G7 countries in Europe are copying many of the policies carried out by this Government?

Mrs. Shephard

The question of inward investment was discussed at some length, and some envy was expressed about the United Kingdom's position. Many people shared the views of the chairman of the executive board of BMW, who recently said: Structural change has made Britain by far the most attractive place to invest in Europe.

Mr. MacShane

As a great student of France, the Secretary of State will welcome the visit to the House to be made by President Chirac in a couple of weeks' time. At the G7 Employment Ministers' summit in Lille, President Chirac appealed for what he called a third way in which social rights would be respected. Will the Secretary of State confirm that the International Labour Organisation, whose director-general addressed that summit, is now a welcome partner at the G7 discussions? Will she also confirm that Britain should turn the page on an era of some hostility to the ILO, accept ILO recommendations on British labour law and not treat it as some authoritarian, tinpot, third-world countries do, refusing to co-operate and work with it in the future?

Mrs. Shephard

The ILO does a valuable job in those spheres with which it should be concerned. My opposite number—the French Employment Minister—was so impressed by what she heard about what we are doing in this country that she is visiting not only some of our Employment Service offices but some of our regeneration areas. The President of France intends to do the same. I think that is quite a compliment to this country's successes.