HC Deb 04 December 1996 vol 286 cc1038-9
21. Mr. Purchase

To ask the President of the Board of Trade which countries in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development invest more per person than the United Kingdom. [5801]

Mr. Greg Knight

Investment can take many forms, both tangible and intangible. No figures are available to make international comparisons of total investment in all its forms. Nevertheless, the investment climate in Britain is excellent. Cash flow is strong, taxes and interest rates are low, and domestic and overseas markets are growing. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will welcome that.

Mr. Purchase

Of course we welcome the fact that the climate is improving. It is a great pity, however, that the improvement has not been manifested in actual investment. As I pointed out at a previous Question Time, gross investment in the United Kingdom is not on a par with that in other OECD countries: we are 18th in that league—well behind Germany, France and Japan—and the position is not improving, but worsening. Gross investment has fallen by about 15 per cent. since the most recent general election. Will the Minister deal with those problems?

Mr. Knight

If the problems exist, it is because we started from such a low base due to the appalling lack of investment under the last Labour Government. Since 1979, total investment has grown faster in the United Kingdom than in France and Italy, and we have kept pace with Germany.