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Column 1154that comes to one's own region as high as possible. It is a great mistake to make inward investment a combative issue, as the Minister attempted to do this morning.
People do work together. One of the most difficult aspects of my last years in that job was that I had to get nine district councils and two counties to work together on inward investment. It was a constant headache ensuring that everyone was on board. Political difference was not the most divisive factor--it was that one wanted everyone to contribute to the organisation. Financially, they contributed per head of population, but the chances of winning an inward investment project were not equal because, if selective regional assistance applied to one area, it had a greater chance of success.
During the past five years, I was involved in 17 projects that involved a serious number of jobs and in which regional selective assistance was involved. Of the 17, eight were on Humberside and the others were spread around six other councils. A group of councils therefore did not win projects, because they were among those that did not get regional selective assistance, and because the arguments for such assistance going to them were not necessarily thought so strong.
One has to keep all those people on board. It is important for a regional development organisation to market the region as a whole, so one has to build partnerships which are not merely effective for the council areas that gain investment but which ensure that everyone gains something.
Private sector involvement in regional development organisations is enormously important. We developed strong private sector links, which paid off financially. At one time, the larger proportion of our income came from the private sector. We concentrated on that. One Minister of State--I think that it was the hon. Member for South Ribble (Mr. Atkins)--set targets for the amount of private sector investment, which was probably quite a good thing. Most people think that he set the targets too high, and they were subsequently reduced.
It is important that the private sector is involved, but not just for its money. When one meets companies from Japan and the United States--one has met plenty of them--it is very important for the public sector to meet them together with the private sector, so that the companies can see that the welcome which one brings spreads across both public and private sectors.
The hon. Member for Falmouth and Camborne (Mr. Coe) made a good point about the cost of utilities in our country in comparison with some of our competitors. Utilities have a big role to play, because some of the investments which come in--particularly major investments--are major users of water or power, and establishing a relationship with the utilities is very important.
In Yorkshire, following the privatisation of the major utilities--whatever one thought about the legislation--we thought that it was important to work with them and to get them on board in assisting us in attracting inward investment. I must say that Yorkshire Electricity, Yorkshire Water and others have worked very well with us in recognising the priority of getting companies in. That is a part of the partnership which has not been mentioned this morning.
Column 1155I agree with the hon. Member for Surrey, North-West (Sir M. Grylls) that we now have many more suppliers who can meet the standards required by investors, and not just standards of quality. The "just in time" philosophy which we have picked up from Japan is now being applied much more widely in our industry than was the case 10 years ago. Obviously such a practice is good, not only for overseas companies which come here and want their supplies on time, but for our indigenous industry.
Whatever one says about the role of the private sector and of local authorities, the role of the Government is critical. In doing that job for a period, the co-operation of the Invest in Britain Bureau has been very good indeed. I believe that we should pay tribute to it in this debate; it works well with the regional development organisations.
Obviously, each regional development organisation probably feels that it could do with more funding, and I shall come to a comparison between Scotland and the English regions in a few moments. But it is important that that organisation, which is part of the Department of Trade and Industry, is properly funded, and that one looks at strengthening the role of the regions in promoting inward investment.
A ministerial lead is important, and I have seen very different attitudes struck by some Ministers. The first Minister who invited me to London to talk about what Yorkshire and Humberside were doing was the right hon. Member for Kingston upon Thames (Mr. Lamont). It is surprising that the right hon. Gentleman takes the view of the European Union that he does now, because we all knew in the mid to late 1980s that the reason why companies from overseas were interested in coming to this country was that they wanted to get into the single market. There was no doubt about that, and when one met Japanese and American companies, they told one so. Companies from the federal republic also gave clear reasons why they wanted to be located here, as well as at home.
I came to meet the right hon. Member for Kingston upon Thames when Yorkshire and Humberside first got into working in Japan, and he wanted to urge me to see that as little as possible of the association's budget was spent in japan. He took the view--it was obviously the view at the DTI at that time--that there was not much to be gained from working in Japan, and that we were not likely to get major investments coming in through a regional development organisation. At that time, we took his point on board, and we did not expand our service in Japan for quite a while.
Subsequently, the policy changed and we changed. I must say that, had we not changed, companies such as Citizen, Pioneer and Koyo Seiko would not now be located here. As I have said, each of these firms won against competition from continental Europe.
There also has to be a case for ministerial decisions which are different from the advice given by the Department. I can recall an investment from a company called Devalit--a West German family business--which came here and created some 300 jobs in the Scunthorpe area. Officials in the Department had turned the company down for regional selective assistance, and I thought--as chairman of the association--that was a mistake. The company was bringing technology to the country which
Column 1156was not available, even though some of products which it produced were being manufactured in the United Kingdom.
The Minister involved at that time was the right hon. and learned Member for Rushcliffe (Mr. Clarke) and, although I was told that writing to him would be a waste of time, it proved not to be at all. The right hon. and learned Gentleman decided that the company should get regional selective assistance, and those 300 jobs are still there in Scunthorpe.
One must take the view that the partnership necessary to make inward investment effective is one that stretches all the way from Labour local authorities, to regional development organisations which may have some dominance from Labour members, to the Department and to ministerial level. The partnership must take place across the political divide if one wishes to get the maximum from inward investment.
I shall come back to funding. The funding of investment in the English regions, or the arrangements which we make for investment, is obviously different from the levels of funding for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. That owes something to the fact that there is direct ministerial responsibility in those areas.
While we welcome the changes in Northern Ireland, we must recognise that it means that Northern Ireland will provide stiffer competition for inward investment coming into the United Kingdom than it did before. Given the employment situation in Northern Ireland, we must welcome that, but we must remember that it also provides competition for other English regions. One must look at the amount of funding which the IBB is able to receive, because the good job that it is doing must continue.
I hope that the Government will remember that no actual inward investment is possible without the co-operation of local authorities. In our region, Humberside county council has been involved in at least half the significant investments. The hon. Member for Brigg and Cleethorpes (Mr. Brown) frequently refers to the Kimberley-Clark investment, and the site which Kimberley-Clark chose for its company was developed by Humberside county council.
I am quite sure that the people who processed the recent changes in local government will find that business men in Humberside are not enthusiastic about the abolition of the county, because it has brought together the economic needs of both sides of the Humber. The Humber estuary area has a high potential for inward investment. It is one of the few areas where considerable land is available that would be suitable for chemical companies, which generally have difficulty gaining planning permission. Splitting the Humber area in terms of local responsibility for its economic development is a big mistake--a view shared by many in the area. That is not to say that Hull city council has not been extremely supportive of inward investment, but the area deserved unitary consideration.
The Government's officers overseas are extremely helpful. The Foreign Office's arrangements in Japan are different from its arrangements in the United States, which is wise. I found the British officers in the consulates in the United States very helpful and constructive. That was especially so with a number of the secondees whom the Department of Trade and Industry is funding to operate in consular offices around that country.
Column 1157The position is different in Japan. In the United States, a great deal of investment does not come through the embassy, whereas in Japan the embassy is the natural first port of call for potential investors. The embassy in Tokyo and the consulate in Osaka were especially helpful on inward investment. They do not suffer from the illusion, which seems prevalent in this country, that the Conservative party is in favour of inward investment and the Labour party is not.
Indeed, on two or thee occasions the embassy asked me to allay the fears of Japanese investors that an incoming Labour Government would end Japanese investment, and that those companies that had already invested in the United Kingdom would find life very difficult. The officials are not so naive as some of the statements made in this House suggest.
I want to explain why I believe that a future Labour Government would be positive about inward investment. The social chapter is not the offputting factor suggested by Conservative Members. Pioneer is typical of Japanese companies, because it said before it came that it was anxious to have a single-union agreement. The trade union movement have now come to accept that, and various trade unions compete for such agreements. The only unions that still make a great fuss about that are those that have never won any.
In the case of Pioneer, what was then the EEPTU--the Electrical, Electronic, Plumbing and Telecommunications Union--and is now part of the Amalgamated Engineering Union, won the agreement. Its officials have told me, both at the time and since, that the conditions for workers in that company are superior to those in almost any other company in the region. Indeed, they said that, if they could get the same conditions of service across the region, they would be delighted.
The social chapter will not cause such major companies much of a problem. People talk about the minimum wage, but most of the companies that I have helped to bring to this country would be insulted by any suggestion that they would want to pay any less than the suggested minimum wage. The bogeys invented by some have no real basis.
Indeed, it is a dangerous policy for the Government continually to say that a change of Government would mean the end of inward investment and cause a great deal of discomfort for those companies that have come to this country. That message is picked up abroad. It was reported to me on the recent YHDA visit to the United States. Previously, the social chapter was not mentioned on my visits, because it was not part of the vocabulary of the time, but now it is mentioned.
In conjunction with opinion polls, companies are citing the Conservative Government's fears as one reason to think twice about investment. The Government's false propaganda on that issue is a disservice to inward investment. Certain members of the Government are far more interested in peddling a party political line in order to build up their support for the next general election than in giving people a realistic idea of what is permanent in our way of working and what will ensure that any company that comes here will thrive.
Column 1158It is therefore a dangerous policy. It is not funny to attack the Opposition by saying that we are not interested in inward investment. It is not only wrong but dangerous, and counter- productive for the prospects of inward investment.
I did not disagree with much of what the right hon. Member for Tonbridge and Malling (Sir J. Stanley) said. However, a major factor in Japanese investment is language. But the Japanese are also concerned with skills and communication. The policies put forward by the Labour party show that we are paying far more attention to skills training, and a great deal must be said about communications. Future inward investors should not be made afraid that a change of Government will jeopardise their investment. On the contrary, I am confident that it will be good for it.
I am concerned about the fact that Yorkshire and Humberside is currently receiving less inward investment. Some £490 million were invested in 1991, but in 1992-93 the figure went down to £130 million. I do not have the figure for 1993-94. The Library paper shows that, in 1991, 11,500 jobs were created or safeguarded and, in 1992-93, the figure was 6,500. The figure shown in the research paper is just short of 6,000 for 1993-94. That seems to indicate a drop, and I am concerned that, despite Kimberly-Clark, the proportion of inward investment is not quite standing up.
Two practical matters should be dealt with in terms of how the Invest in Britain Bureau operates. It would sometimes be helpful if people from the IBB spent a little time working in the regions on a secondment basis. Those of us who represent Yorkshire and Humberside feel that we may not have had a good deal over Samsung. Naturally, we are delighted that Samsung has come to this country, but we know that it seriously considered coming to Doncaster. However, our efforts to attract Samsung were largely dissipated because of political priorities for where the company should be located.
It is important that the Government be even-handed when dealing with the regions, although I congratulate the north-east on its acquisition. I realise that the DTI has priorities. I congratulate, among others, Mr. John Bridge of the Northern Development Company, who happens to have left Yorkshire and Humberside to join the NDC for a higher salary.
When I approached the Department of Trade and Industry at the request of my association--all the members wanted to match the salary so that Mr. Bridge stayed--I was told that we were not allowed to match the salary paid by the Northern Development Company. I do not object to that, because Mr. Bridge has done an excellent job there, but I believe that there should be even- handedness for the regions. The IBB carries out some central research for regional development organisations. It might be helpful if some of that research was done in the regional development organisations rather than at the centre. We should at all times bear in mind the importance of the European Union, and I agree with what the Minister said in his introduction. Our membership of the European Union is essential to much decision-making, and it is notable that, over the past five years, almost £1 billion has been invested in Yorkshire and Humberside. Some 18 per cent. of that is American money, 13 per cent. is from
Column 1159the far east and 50 per cent. is European money. That emphasises the importance of Europe in the whole process.
We should therefore try to avoid the expressions of national virility that we often hear from Conservative Members, and which are associated with maintaining our separateness from Europe. Economically, our strength is our association with other members of the European Union.
A Labour Government would be extremely positive for the whole process of inward investment, because we would incorporate the English regional development organisations into the regional development agencies, which would also cover aspects such as regional investment and organisations such as venture capital organisations which operate on a profit basis.
A united organisation, which would include an element of devolution such as there is with the function of English Estates, would be able not only to market the area as an area for investment, but to take more positive steps to bring about investment and to ensure that sites and premises were available for those looking for them. The positive moves that we shall take in creating regional development organisations for England and Wales will not detract from the investment going to Scotland and Wales, but will ensure that the English regions compete on an equal basis for inward investment. 12.42 pm
Mr. James Clappison (Hertsmere): I welcome the opportunity to make a brief contribution to this debate, which is timely in view of the recent excellent news about inward investment. We heard some excellent news from the north-east. We heard a great deal about the north-east today and we heard a great deal about Yorkshire in the speech by the hon. Member for Morley and Leeds, South (Mr. Gunnell). I should like to shift some of the attention away from those regions and to focus on the south-east in general and on Hertfordshire in particular.
Before turning to that subject, I take issue with some of what was said by the hon. Member for Middlesbrough (Mr. Bell), the Opposition Front-Bench spokesman. I do not doubt the depth of his concern for the north-east and for Cleveland, and I am sure that he shares our delight in the excellent news about Samsung coming to his constituency and in the excellence of inward investment in the north-east. I take issue with him, however, on the economic rationale and policies that underlie his sentiments. The hon. Gentleman told the House that the reason for our success in attracting inward investment was the strength of our manufacturing tradition and the potential and excellent skills of our work force. I take issue with the hon. Gentleman about that. If we are to live up to our great manufacturing tradition and to realise the tremendous potential of our labour force in this country, we must have the right economic policies to create the right economic conditions for inward investment. The hon. Gentleman looked back to the 1970s as a sort of golden age of inward investment which compared favourably with the 1980s and 1990s, when those conditions were in place and the right policies were being pursued.
We have heard a number of statistics in today's debate and I hope that I am not being unkind to the hon. Member for Rotherham (Mr. MacShane) if I say that he did not
Column 1160skimp on statistics--certainly not on the selectivity of those statistics. I wish to draw the attention of the House to some other statistics, which are broadly based and representative, and which answer the point made by the hon. Member for Middlesbrough. They involve inward investment in the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s, and I confess that I am relying on a piece of work prepared by the Library. If the hon. Gentleman has any better evidence, I suggest that he produces it.
The Library has produced a document for me comparing inward investment in the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s at constant 1993 prices. It shows that throughout the 1970s inward investment had an annual average of just over £6 billion. In the 1980s that figure rose to almost £9 billion, and in the 1990s so far we have had annual inward investment of almost £12 billion--almost double this country's performance in attracting inward investment in the 1970s. The reasons for that are clear to see.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Tonbridge and Malling (Sir J. Stanley) made an eloquent speech about the conditions experienced in this country in the 1970s. There was a worry at that time that the country was failing to attract inward investment. Surveys were carried out which found that United States inward investment was declining and we were not living up to our potential. One of the reports of that period talked to prospective inward investors and found that they had
"concern over inflation, the perceived lack of long-range Government policy on taxes and nationalisation, industrial unrest, the restrictive practices of trade unions, a social system which produced a disincentive to work and the better growth prospects of most other European countries."
It was found that all those factors in the 1970s militated against inward investment into this country. Overseas investors came to this country and saw exactly what we were experiencing in this country at the time--over- regulation, over-taxation, bad union practices, a disastrous educational system and an economy that was chronically inflationary.
The longer I listened to the hon. Member for Middlesbrough, the more worried I became about the Labour party's proposed march towards a free market economy. The longer the hon. Gentleman talked, the more doubtful that proposition became--nowhere more so than when he talked about the difference in the relationship between outward and inward investment. I could not believe what the hon. Gentleman was saying about outward investment. If what he was saying was right--that an imbalance between inward and outward investment was the mark of economic failure--countries such as Japan and Germany, with a huge tilt between outward and inward investment, would be economic basket cases. I do not know where one would look in the world to find an example of a country where inward and outward investment were in perfect equilibrium. Perhaps one could look to somewhere like Albania, where there is nothing much going in or out except the people. The hon. Gentleman was holding up somewhere like Albania as a model of economic success.
By the time the hon. Gentleman reached the end of his speech, I doubted whether the march towards a market economy had begun. The hon. Gentleman rightly started his speech talking about the successes of inward investment in this country. At the end of his speech, he was talking about companies which had failed in this
Column 1161country and failures in inward investment. The hon. Gentleman and the Labour party must realise that that is part and parcel of a free market global economy in which some businesses succeed and some fail. Thankfully, more businesses have been succeeding than failing in this country which is why more and more inward investment is coming here. It would help to attract the inward investment about which the hon. Member for Leeds, South is so anxious if, instead of talking about failures, Labour Members talked about our successes in promoting inward investment to the rest of the world. Conservative Members unequivocally believe that inward investment is a good thing. It creates tens of thousands of jobs and makes a major contribution to our balance of payments. I suspect that one reason why UK exporters and exports are doing so well is the major contribution from inward investment in high-technology export manufacturing industries. Inward investment also spreads good management and business practices. I ask my hon. Friend the Minister to bear in mind the particular case for inward investment in the south-east and in Hertfordshire. We were delighted to hear earlier of the tens of thousands of jobs created in the UK by inward investment, many of them in the north-east. Of the new jobs created last year, fewer than 1,000 were created in the south-east. Hertfordshire and Hertsmere, which I have the privilege to represent, have a positive attitude to inward investment. There is real determination on the part of local authorities, businesses and communities to work together to create the right conditions for inward investment.
In 1992, the Hertfordshire development organisation was established specifically to promote the county to investors in this country and overseas. It has enjoyed some notable successes in attracting interest, but there is some way to go. My constituency has benefited substantially from inward investment, and is benefiting now from jobs and prospective jobs created by overseas investors. I enter a plea that when inward investment is being considered, the south-east should not be forgotten. Inward investment will receive a warm welcome there.
The south-east offers particular advantages to certain types of inward investment. It has an excellent, highly skilled labour force, good communications and a first-rate location in relation to the European single market. The latter is especially true of my constituency, which is particularly well located in respect of the road and rail networks.
Inward investment will not be attracted to any part of the UK unless it offers the right economic conditions. Although the Government have a role to play, and there is a place for partnership, we must not lose sight of the fundamental economic conditions that attract inward investment to this country and the link that investors see between those economic conditions, profitability and investment. Some policies described by Labour Members in this debate give more than a hint of a return to high regulation, high taxation and the sort of labour practices that had such a disastrous effect in the 1970s.
This week saw the timely publication of a book on the Labour party's Commission on Social Justice. I have not yet completely mastered it, for it is a long read--perhaps it should be kept for sleepless nights--but its proposals
Column 1162for what is described as intelligent regulation and its commitments to spending and taxation are unlikely to prove instantly attractive to inward investors, who would be most attracted by continuing the economic policies which have brought the UK such great and growing success throughout the 1980s and 1990s.
Mr. Frank Cook (Stockton, North): I apologise, Mr. Deputy Speaker, for being late for the debate. I was unable to be here for the opening speeches as I had an appointment with my physician at the Middlesex hospital.
Before starting on the meat of my speech, if it can be called that, I shall comment on the remarks of the hon. Member for Hertsmere (Mr. Clappison), who tried to take my hon. Friend the Member for Middlesbrough (Mr. Bell) to task about his comments on tilt between outward and inward investment. The hon. Gentleman's remarks would have been a good deal more acceptable if he had given the full picture. In comparing Japan's attitude to Germany with that of the UK, his remarks would have been more acceptable if he had mentioned the high proportion of Japan's budget which is spent on research and development, unlike the position in this country. There are other aspects, too, to take into account, which would bear a good deal more honest scrutiny were any careful consideration given to those comparisons. Let us represent the facts properly, please, because that is what I am seeking today.
The hon. Member for Falmouth and Camborne (Mr. Coe) who, sadly, is not in his place, referred to the pipe dream of a single union agreement. I know that the hon. Member has been quick off the blocks today and that in the past he has shown a rare turn of foot. Indeed, with the rest of country, I have been electrified when I have seen him turn it on in the back straight and leave others standing, but we cannot let him skate over issues such as single union agreements. I must put it on record that long before the hon. Gentleman was beginning to go round the bend, I was concluding--having negotiated--single union agreements. He really ought to study trade union history a little more.
The hon. Member for Surrey, North-West (Sir M. Grylls) said that he did not know where the hon. Member for North Devon (Mr. Harvey) had been and criticised my hon. Friend the Member for Rotherham (Mr. MacShane) for quoting unfavourable statistics. If we are to be realistic, I do not know what we are supposed to do. The hon. Member for Surrey, North-West quoted Imperial Chemical Industries plc. If I went to some kind of progress meeting with ICI, as I used to do on a weekly basis, which was chaired by Denys Henderson or John Harvey-Jones, they would quickly tell me if I tried to ignore the disadvantageous aspects of the subject under discussion. So, any kind of selectivity or preference of statistics is, frankly, being dishonest with the nation and the sort of optimism which gave rise to the south sea bubble. Criticism of Opposition Members on that basis is therefore totally unwarranted.
The debate is liberal because it is simply a debate on inward investment. I would like to take the opportunity to take the subject out of the normal hack party and partisan point scoring which goes on in this Chamber in such a negative and fruitless way, and to talk about a subject which has been referred to on many occasions this morning--Samsung.
Column 1163Eight years ago or thereabouts, Rediffusion, which had a production unit in Billingham in Cleveland and another in Shildon in County Durham, announced that, sadly, it was going to have to close. The staff at Rediffusion were largely female. They were all well skilled in the fine, manipulative skills necessary for small-scale work because they used to produce visual display terminals. As the hon. Member for Stockton, North at that time, I was anxious to preserve that unit, preserve the jobs and keep the team together, so I suggested that the planners and developers should turn their faces towards the far east because, as it happened, I had recently returned from a Select Committee visit to Japan.
Some time later, those planners and developers came back to me to tell me that the Japanese were not interested in investment in Billingham, but that a Korean company had been located which was interested but was disturbed by the then newly introduced European Community anti-dumping regime. When I asked about details of that, I was told that Samsung--the company to which they referred--was nervous that it would be unable to reach the required quota levels of indigenously produced components. As Brussels was very nervous about permitting the advent of another screwdriver operation simply to gain a gateway to Europe, Samsung did not think that it would be able to meet the requirements from Brussels.
When I asked the planning committee what it intended to do about that, it seemed somewhat nonplussed until I said, "It's pointless sitting here crying into our beer and wringing our hands; let's get off our seats"--I do not think that that was quite the word that I used--"and go to Brussels and argue the case." I led a delegation which included Councillor John Scott and the chief planning officer Russell Ward and we even took a member of the Conservative group to prove that we were of one political mind and not partisan. We went to Brussels and pleaded Stockton's case. We referred to the unemployment and the availability of already trained staff. We referred to the other advantages that we could offer.
The Commissioner and the directorate-general suggested that we should gain from Samsung an undertaking to help United Kingdom and European producers to lift their production levels and standards and specification to the level required for its components. We were told that if Samsung gave an assurance to assist in that process, Brussels would not for the moment apply the full weight of the regulations. We brought that agreement back to Teeside and offered it to Samsung. On that basis, Samsung came to Billingham and took over the Rediffusion operation when it closed. Since then, Samsung has relocated and extended several times. It has a repeatedly proven production record which is exemplary by any standards and its industrial relations track record is there for all to see: it is flawless.
Furthermore, the company and its senior management have put down roots in the community. They have taken an active role in the Billingham international folklore festival, which is the pre-eminent event of its kind in the world. They have adopted a prominent role. They have become part and parcel of the community. That is an important point for me to register here today because of the comments that I am about to make.
Column 1164Many claims and counter-claims have been made about Samsung's current decision to place its European headquarters not in Middlesbrough, but in Stockton. The headquarters will straddle the borders of Stockton and Hartlepool.
We are told that Samsung's decision was secured with the help of a regional selective assistance grant of £58 million. That is very true, but we must remember that the darling of this year's Conservative party conference, the right hon. but excessively ambitious Member for Enfield, Southgate (Mr. Portillo) has preached a faith which would eradicate that kind of support for such a move.
Nevertheless, credit for placing the grant on Teeside's table must be given to the Department of Trade and Industry. I give unstinting credit to the Department for that. However, we must remember that Lanarkshire, which was in competition for the establishment and which is already an enterprise zone and had all the inducements to offer that such status allows, was also offered a £58 million RSA grant. That brings me to the comments of my hon. Friend the Member for Motherwell, North (Dr. Reid). At Scottish Question Time this week he said
"that the package that attracted Samsung to the north of England was not the reported £58 million, but £71 million, the extra £13 million given in stealth being meant to counteract our enterprise zone status and financial assistance?"--[ Official Report , 26 October 1994; Vol. 248, c. 882.]
My hon. Friend is right. Extra moneys were offered for Samsung to come to Teeside, but it was not £13 million--it was £19 million. That £19 million was put together in a package by agencies such as Cleveland county council, Stockport borough council, Hartlepool borough council, the Northern Development Company, English Estates, Teeside training and enterprise council, and Cameron Hall Developments. There was a whole team working to attract Samsung to Cleveland.
My hon. Friend the Member for Motherwell, North, in putting his point, did nothing less than his duty. He has received information from a source of which I am not aware which leads him to believe that there was something unhealthy about the matter. It was entirely proper for him to put that question to the Secretary of State for Scotland and to seek an inquiry into the propriety of the deal. I must say to my hon. Friend that the money was given not in stealth but in desperation, because the community badly needed that development. My hon. Friend accuses the Department of Trade and Industry of giving the additional money. I cannot believe that for one second. The only advantage to Her Majesty's Government of giving additional money would have been to safeguard the seats of the hon. Members for Langbaurgh (Mr. Bates) and for Stockton, South (Mr. Devlin). For the life of me, I cannot believe that they are worth £9.5 million each. It just does not make sense.
The simple truth is that credit must go to all the agencies which co- operated in successfully putting the package together. Credit must go to officers of Cleveland county council who captained and coached the team. Indeed, we must congratulate Bruce Stephenson, who led the team to Japan to play the final minutes of the game. Credit was given to Cleveland county council in particular by Sir John Hall, the chief executive of Cameron Hall
Column 1165Developments--and, incidentally, chairman of Newcastle United, an eminently successful football team at the moment.
Sir John Hall also gave credit to the Minister, the hon. Member for Enfield, North (Mr. Eggar), for his support and assistance in securing the package. However, apart from giving him credit, I must do him the favour of pointing out that, as much as he was helping Teesside, he was also helping Strathclyde. I am pretty sure that he was also rendering the same assistance to Doncaster. My hon. Friend the Member for Morley and Leeds, South (Mr. Gunnell) pleaded for even-handedness. I am sure that he received no less than even-handedness from the hon. Member for Enfield, North.
I have not offered my comments in the spirit of cheap party hacking which occurs in the House and which I find fruitless and boring. I would not be here unless I was doing a proper job. It is about time we managed to focus our minds more positively, constructively and, dare I say it, in the national interest and in the interests of the people whom we represent, rather than in the interests of seeking cheap party political advantage. I am not talking to any party in particular, although it is fairly plain, bearing in mind the direction in which I am looking: I offer my comments for the good sense and the good health of the House because, by God, it is in need of an injection of good humour.
Mr. Nigel Waterson (Eastbourne): It is a great pleasure to speak in this debate on inward investment because it is such an important subject for all parties and for all our constituencies. As the hon. Member for Stockton, North (Mr. Cook) rightly said, it is important to avoid petty party political points on this matter or, indeed, on any other matter. The hon. Gentleman sounds like an admirable candidate for the Privileges Committee because cheap party political points do not get anyone anywhere.
I shall make not a party political point but a point about the Labour party. Inward investment is important because of the jobs and prosperity that it brings to all parts of the country. It is also important because it is a touchstone--a sort of litmus test--as to whether the Labour party is new and has learnt any of the lessons of recent years. Sooner or later the sleaze smokescreen will lift, whether the allegations have been sustained or proven to be false and falsely motivated, and the Labour party will be left exactly where it was before, which is--to use the word of the hon. Member for Middlesbrough (Mr. Bell)--in a state of "drift" on matters such as industrial policy. We shall then be able to discover whether the new pistachio-flavoured, sharp-suited Labour party is any different from the old Labour party because in its heart it remains deeply hostile to inward investment.
As I said, inward investment brings prosperity and jobs. I shall use the analogy--I do not intend to be overly party political--of the road-building programme. For example, the Liberal Democrats are implacably opposed to building new roads on a national basis but incredibly enthusiastic about them on a local basis, in their constituencies. It has been estimated that since 1979, inward investment has created or safeguarded--the safeguarding of jobs is also
Column 1166important--a total of 622,247 jobs in the United Kingdom, with some 51,920 in my region of the south-east. That is an important set of figures.
Surely, it must be a massive tribute to the Conservative Government's policies that people around the world are literally queuing up to invest in the United Kingdom. That is a far cry from the bad old days that I remember. I used to travel a great deal in my business before the Conservative Government as well as after 1979 and I can remember the attitude of sympathy and pity that I sometimes encountered in countries such as the United States with regard to the state of the British economy and British politics. What is now regarded as an aberration--for example, the appearance of Mr. Jimmy Knapp on our television screens--was almost a regular, if not nightly, event in those days. I do not think that I need remind hon. Members how disgraceful our industrial relations were in that era and how much of a disincentive they were not only to inward investment but to endogenous inward investment.
I shall refer to one classic example: Rover. How could Labour have got it so spectacularly wrong? On 31 January 1994, the hon. Member for Livingston (Mr. Cook), the Opposition spokesman on these matters, said:
"Does not the Minister and those Conservative Members baying from the Back Benches understand the apprehension felt by Rover's work force today now that they have seen their company sold to BMW, with which they are in direct competition across Europe?"
He went on to talk about promises made by BMW and asked what collateral the Minister held for those promises. He continued: "What assurance can the Minister offer those currently employed at Rover that their employment is as secure today as it was yesterday?"--[ Official Report , 31 January 1994; Vol. 236, c. 620.] Is not that the historical, kneejerk, typical Labour Member's reaction to any such deal?
Yet how wrong can one be? As we now know, BMW is to create 1,450 new jobs at Rover plants over the next six months. We have heard endlessly and rightly during the debate about the Samsung announcement of more and more jobs. It seems to me that the message has not yet got across to our friends in the Labour and Liberal Democrat parties about just how damaging their slavish support for the social chapter is. It seriously threatens the success that we need, about which the hon. Member for Stockton, North spoke with his usual eloquence.
It is clear that in France 29 per cent. of total labour costs go on non- wage social costs. In Germany the figure is 23 per cent. while in Britain it is just 17 per cent. Those are significant figures.
Column 1167Members if he wishes, or they can do so if they wish. The hon. Gentleman refers to the attitude of the Labour party in a derogatory way as if the party was opposed to inward investment. Let me put it on record that Cleveland county council, Stockton borough council and Hartlepool borough council are Labour controlled and the Northern Development Company is staffed largely by Labour politicians. I do not know how far the hon. Gentleman wants to take it. How much proof do we need to give?
Mr. Waterson: Nothing that the hon. Gentleman says cuts across what I said. I was drawing an analogy with the Liberal Democrats. Frankly, I regard the two parties as indistinguishable. Labour politicians locally are very much into the cracker barrel aspect of politics and the notion of getting jobs and trying to take the credit--where it is due, no doubt justifiably. However, nationally, there is an innate suspicion of inward investment. The suspicion of foreign interests taking over companies is unjustified.
I do not know whether the hon. Member for Stockton, North was in the Chamber when my hon. Friend the Member for Surrey, East (Mr. Ainsworth) said that the TUC had described one of the major Japanese investments as "alien". I think that I quote correctly.
I do not know whether hon. Members saw The Sunday Times only last weekend. It dealt at some length with inward investment in a long and perceptive article. It referred particularly to the French, who in the 1980s were terribly scornful of investment by the Japanese in Britain and even for a time, despite claiming to be more communautaire than anyone else, resisted the import into France of Nissans and Toyotas made in Britain. Jacques Calvet, whom hon. Members will instantly recognise as the head of Peugeot, memorably described Britain as an aircraft carrier for the Japanese. What are the French doing now? They are working terribly hard--at least as hard as us--to bring in foreign investors.
The Sunday Times article also referred to the fresh wave of investment from the so-called tiger economies, of which we have rightly heard a great deal during the debate--Korea, Taiwan, Singapore and Hong Kong. Samsung is not an isolated incident in the story. The article says:
"In the last year alone, Kong Wah of Hong Kong has invested £9 million in a TV plant in Tyne and Wear; CMC of Taiwan has invested £26 million and is creating 550 jobs making floppy discs in Northumberland; and Siam Furniture has set up in Middlesbrough, the UK's first manufacturing investment from Thailand. . . . up to 50 tiger' companies may be investing in Europe in the next few years." On the basis of recent history, we can say that the lion's share of those investments will come to this country.
I shall move closer to home, to my constituency, to share what is happening in Eastbourne and elsewhere. The Nobo group will be instantly recognisable to many hon. Members and is located in my constituency. It makes notice boards and visual aids--the sort of boards that one often sees in meetings to help the speaker make his or her point. Only recently--completion took place on the 21st of this month--it acquired De Visu and Lara, two French companies. That acquisition will nearly double the company's sales, which is quite something in itself. Estimated total sales of the combined companies will approach £50 million per annum.
Nobo's strategy is to be very much a United Kingdom manufacturer. As a result of the acquisitions, opportunities have arisen to expand its UK manufacturing base. That is