HC Deb 19 February 1997 vol 290 cc923-4
19. Mr. Simpson

To ask the President of the Board of Trade how many companies have indicated to the Government that they located in Britain because of the absence of social chapter obligations; and how many have said they would relocate elsewhere if Britain adopted the social chapter. [15041]

Mr. John M. Taylor

Since 1992, more than 1,700 inward investment decisions, expected to create more than 130,000 new jobs, have been notified to the Invest in Britain Bureau. Our flexible labour market has been a key factor in that achievement.

Mr. Simpson

Since my question was about how many firms said that they would not come here if we had the social chapter, and how many would leave if we adopted it, I presume that the answer that the Minister was looking for was, "None".

Is not the more typical attitude of UK industry to share the views of Unilever and United Biscuits, which said that it would be counter-productive to exclude British workers from the provisions of the social chapter? Are the Government not embarrassed to set a benchmark in Europe in which Britain offers no employment rights, low employment protection, no parental leave and no consultation rights at all?

As the Government take their soap-opera policies into Europe, is not it appropriate for the citizens of the UK to ask that the Minister looks for something more inspirational than Ministers behaving badly as the model to which we aspire?

Mr. Taylor

It is not for me to cross-examine international companies on their reasons for investing in this country. They may do so for many reasons. We have an established enterprise culture, good communications, a skilled work force, low interest rates and inflation and the English language. There are many reasons, and I am not referring to any one of them in particular, but I am claiming that it is a great success story.