HC Deb 05 June 1996 vol 278 cc592-3
4. Mr. Nicholls

To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what incentives are currently available to attract inward investment to Scotland. [30074]

The Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. Michael Forsyth)

Among the incentives for inward investment to Scotland are a skilled and flexible work force, low taxes, low inflation and the absence of the social chapter or a tartan tax.

Mr. Nicholls

Is not my right hon. Friend too modest to say that it is a remarkable tribute to his efforts at the Cabinet table that Scotland receives such a massive amount of inward investment and a good deal more for public expenditure than does England? Now that the west country has its own designated Minister, does my right hon. Friend look forward to a time when a similar achievement could be brought about there, perhaps by a modest transfer from the Scottish Office budget?

Mr. Forsyth

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his kind remarks about the success of Scotland in attracting inward investment. I am sure that the west country will strongly compete for that investment. However, I do not take the credit for Ministers but give it to Locate in Scotland and Scottish Enterprise.

I see from today's newspapers in Scotland that the Labour party would abolish Scottish Enterprise as part of the recommendations of the McFadden Commission. The newspapers state that the distinguished Miss McFadden says that Scottish Enterprise will have part of its role taken over by a Scottish Parliament and another part taken over by local government, and that it will then cease to exist.

Mr. Hood

The Secretary of State will appreciate that street crime is a disincentive to inward investment. Will he take this opportunity to reject the suggestion by the Scottish National party to commercialise prostitution and turn Scotland into the greatest whorehouse in Europe, and assure us that they will have none of that nonsense in Scotland?

Mr. Forsyth

I know that the Scottish nationalists come up with some eccentric ideas but, as far as I am aware, they have not advocated prostitution as a matter that should be part of our inward investment campaign. The views that they have expressed on that matter are entirely consistent with the most left-wing and most radical party in Europe.

Mrs. Ewing

On the issue of inward investment, would the Secretary of State care to comment on how many jobs originally pursued by Locate in Scotland went to the Republic of Ireland because of the local corporation tax that is levied there—at 10 per cent.? Will he also, instead of allowing his Minister to conduct an argument through the press with the Federation of Small Businesses, organise a meeting to discuss with it the importance of giving support to indigenous industries?

Mr. Forsyth

I am surprised that a Member of the Scottish National party—of all parties—should try to argue that Ireland has an advantage because of the rate of corporation tax that it has to offer. If the hon. Lady would care to make an appointment with Locate in Scotland, it will explain to her why we can offer far more than Ireland in terms of financial incentives, and why the 10 per cent. corporation tax levied in Ireland is not a comparative advantage over Scotland. When she has had that meeting, perhaps she will join us in propounding the benefits of Scotland as opposed to Ireland.