HC Deb 26 November 2002 vol 395 cc149-51
6. Mrs. Eleanor Laing (Epping Forest)

When she last met the Scottish Executive to discuss inward investment in Scotland. [81445]

8. Mr. James Gray (North Wiltshire)

When she last met the Scottish Executive to discuss inward investment in Scotland. [81447]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Scotland (Mrs. Anne McGuire)

My right hon. Friend and I have regular meetings with the Scottish Executive on a range of matters affecting the Scottish economy, including inward investment.

Mrs. Laing

I thank the Minister for that reply. Is she aware that a recent report from Ernst and Young has shown that inward investment in Scotland has fallen by almost two thirds in the first half of this year? I find that extremely worrying, recognising, as I do, how important inward investment is to Scotland. Given the wealth of experience in business that the Secretary of State has had both personally and as a Minister in the Department of Trade and. Industry, is it not frustrating that Labour and Liberal—[Interruption.]

Mr. Speaker

Order. That is enough. The Minister will answer the hon. Lady's point.

Mrs. McGuire

The hon. Lady may have failed to notice that we are living in a very difficult global market. However, I reassure her that the United Kingdom is second only to the United States as the most popular place for inward investment. Scotland still holds its place within the United Kingdom. Perhaps she will consider some of the good new stories on inward investment, such as those involving the French whisky firms that have relocated their businesses to Livingston, AEA Technology, Excell Biotech and Pentland Ferries.

Mr. Gray

The Minister is bullish about the prospects for inward investment in Scotland, but how does she explain the fact that, in the first half of this year, only seven new projects were recorded compared with 18 in the previous six months? Will she comment on the fact that five of those projects came from the United States?

Mrs. McGuire

We have close relations with the United States, so I am not at all surprised that some of that inward investment has come from there. As I said in my answer to the hon. Member for Epping Forest (Mrs. Laing), we are living in a difficult market, but significant trends have shown that we have cause for optimism. We should stop talking the Scottish economy down and start talking it up.

Mr. Tom Clarke (Coatbridge and Chryston)

Will my hon. Friend and her colleagues in government continue, as they have been doing, to focus on the importance of inward investment, particularly in the light of the economy that we inherited? Will she pay particular regard to the future of Gartcosh, which is crucial to my constituency and to the rest of Lanarkshire?

Mrs. McGuire

I congratulate my right hon. Friend on highlighting the importance of Gartcosh. We all agree that it is vital to the regeneration of Lanarkshire. However, I want to alert the House to the fact that, as we speak, 252 inward investment projects are safeguarding or creating 40,000 jobs in the Scottish economy.

Mr. Martin O'Neill (Ochil)

Does my hon. Friend agree that we live in a difficult recession-ridden international climate and that Britain's macro-economic stability enables us to continue to attract inward investment when other countries, trying a lot harder than they did, are unsuccessful? That is because of the great assets of our labour force, our flexible labour market and, as I said, the general macro-economic stability of Scotland and the rest of the United Kingdom.

Mrs. McGuire

My hon. Friend has a wealth of experience in those matters and I can do nothing other than agree with him.