|Previous Section||Home Page|
Column 1168not merely good news for my constituency, as a 20,000 sq ft extension to its factory in Wales is nearing completion, as well as a 12,000 sq ft extension to its factory in Manchester. In Eastbourne, it has taken on an extra 40 employees, which is a 17 per cent. increase in the work force in the past three months, and additional factory space of about 7,000 sq ft is being rented. That means more jobs to come-- not only new jobs created because of its expertise and ability to get even more out of the companies that it acquired, but the genuine possibility of importing jobs from France. Jobs that were in France might now come to my constituency, to Wales and elsewhere. There is no better example than that, to underline the importance of the fact that we opted out of the social chapter, and I am sure that we would all wish Nobo all the best in its continued expansion, especially under the expert helmsmanship of Reg Barr and Roger Colvin.
We have heard a variety of theories explaining why such companies are attracted to a particular country within the European Union and to particular parts of this country, whether the reasons be grants, labour costs or whatever. We underestimate at our peril the importance of a modern transport infrastructure. There are people in and near my constituency who oppose any road-building or road improvement scheme on principle--a combination of people whose homes are near the schemes, professional protestors and people with a political axe to grind. If we are to keep such companies and to encourage new ones to come, it is vital that we have a proper road and rail infrastructure linking us to centres such as London and to the channel tunnel.
I am delighted, as I know you will be, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that work on the long-promised A22 new route into my constituency is to start on 1 November. It is a £25 million scheme, which is backed by the Government. I hope that not too long thereafter work will start on the Polegate bypass and before too long I want a decision on the building of the improved A27 route from Lewes to Polegate. Several hon. Members have asked whether we are to become a low-wage economy. The expression "coolie economy" was used, but the precise context is unclear, so I shall draw a veil over that. I would like to refer specifically to a speech made in the past few days by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Employment to the Institute of Personnel and Development. He said:
"Low wage economies present formidable competition. Their wages are so much lower than ours that we cannot hope to compete by driving down our wage levels."
He added that Britain instead had to
"climb the ladder of technology"
and improve our competitive edge through creating products that owed more to
"human knowledge than to human muscle".
That gives the lie to the obsession that some Opposition Members have that my right hon. Friend and other members of the Government are determined to drive down wage rates and to oppress the working man.
How good it was to hear that the hon. Member for Rotherham (Mr. MacShane) had met a foundry worker. I am sure that that was a deeply moving experience for the foundry worker, and it is good to hear that apparently there are now direct flights between Geneva and Rotherham.
Column 1169I shall also talk about outward investment, because there was the old suspicion in some of the speeches from the Opposition Benches that inward investment really means big corporations from abroad taking control of British companies and factories to the detriment of the British people. But we should remember--in fairness, this point was made by more than one hon. Member on both sides of the House-- that the UK is second only to the US in terms of outward investment, and that we are even ahead of Japan. In 1992, our outward investment totalled about £100 billion. The example that I gave of the Nobo company in my constituency shows that side of the coin as well. I wanted to finish by mentioning Labour's "Business Plan for Britain", which was published earlier this year. It is not what I would describe as a gripping document, but it is certainly worth reading. It is a fascinating document, with some wonderful echoes of the past in this country.
I think that the best comment on that document came from Stanley Kalms, the chairman of the succesful Dixons group--we might well expect similar comments from foreign investors if there were ever the remotest possibility of another Labour Government--who wrote in a letter to The Times on 11 February:
"I had an awful sense of having been there before. We went through all this in the 1960s and 70s, and it did not work. British business doesn't want a national plan. It wants low inflation, it wants low interest rates, it wants good industrial relations. But some great blueprint drawn up by civil servants, politicians and economists--no thank you".
I do not think that I can improve on those eloquent words from somebody who really should know about these things. I am delighted to have been able to participate in this important debate.
Mr. Peter Ainsworth (Surrey, East): I should like to begin by endorsing wholly what my hon. Friends have said about the importance of outward investment, as well as inward investment. My hon. Friend the Member for Hertsmere (Mr. Clappison) made a compelling case on that point, and my hon. Friend the Member for Eastbourne (Mr. Waterson) has just illustrated clearly how outward investment can be of great benefit to British firms.
When we look at trade and investment, we are talking about a global situation, global movements of money, global telecommunications and global brands, trades and competitiveness. The hon. Member for Middlesbrough (Mr. Bell) rightly said in his opening remarks that it is no good for the UK to be isolated, and that we could not be entire of ourselves. The idea of Britain being isolated would have seemed absurd to our ancestors, who knew perfectly well that Britain's best interests lay in the world outside. Yet it seems to me that, in the course of this century, we went through a prolonged period when we were isolated from the rest of the world and when we started to focus not on what we might offer the world, but on our internal problems, issues and difficulties.
We are all familiar with the performance of the British economy during the 1960s and 1970s. Whatever the party political arguments, there is no escaping the figures. Britain went through an extremely bad patch. However, it is often a salutary reminder to look further back. For
Column 1170example, manufacturing productivity between 1880 and 1914 grew by less than 1 per cent. The problems are deep rooted and long-standing and, as my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade said, reversing more than 100 years of relative economic decline is not an easy task.
During the 1980s, the reverse began. Manufacturing productivity grew faster in the United Kingdom than in the United States, France and Germany. As was said earlier, our share of the volume of world trade stabilised during that period, which was important, and our overall growth rate began to match that of our competitors in Europe. In short, confidence started to return and Britain began to find a role again--one that built on our ancient strengths, such as language, our links with the wider world--not just the European Union--and our belief in free trade. That role is constantly evolving to meet the ever-changing challenges of the global market, where inward and outward investment are expanding. Our exports are rising strongly, especially to countries where economic growth is fastest. They are not yet our most important export markets, but we are making great strides in the most rapidly growing areas of the world.
The United Kingdom is the world's largest outward investor after the United States. What matters most is where that outward investment is going. Currently, the great majority goes to highly developed countries such as the United States and the other European Union countries. Those large markets are important and always will be, but they are not the fastest- growing markets in the world. Over the past 10 years, our average return on outward investment has been about 10 per cent. It is my hope--and I believe that it is Government policy--that we reinvigorate our attempts to get capital into the parts of the world that are growing fastest and where the return will be greatest. We are making significant progress in that, but there is still much to be done.
Most importantly, perhaps, we have learnt to adapt to the globalisation of trade by making ourselves available to inward investment. We have heard much today about the rewards from that. We want to import capital to build up our industrial base, to import the skills and working practices of overseas companies and to learn to adapt to and accommodate new ideas.
The Trade and Industry Select Committee report, "Competitiveness of UK Manufacturing Industry", has an important section that states: "Apart from new jobs and improvement in the balance of trade, the main advantage"--
of inward investment--
"is the dissemination of new management practices to other parts of UK manufacturing, through direct influence on suppliers, the example provided to competitors and others, and (eventually) the movement of personnel."
The report continues:
"Some of the new practices, such as partnership relationships between customers and suppliers and the empowerment' of workforces, are radical changes from past UK practice, and would have been difficult to bring about in any other way."
I believe that to be very much the case.
Everybody in the developed world, certainly in the European Community, aims to attract inward investment. As has been said in the debate, we are attracting far more than our fair share, and we are entitled to ask why that might be so. The first reason is that we have a large and skilled work force--the second largest in the European
Column 1171Community. We have heard much today about manufacturing and about the north-east, which is fair because a great deal has been achieved there.
My hon. Friend the Member for Hertsmere made the point for the south-east, and I should like to emphasise non-manufacturing skills, because we also have enormous skills in the service sector and are attracting a lot of inward investment in terms of corporate head office relocations in service industries. I have yet to have it confirmed, but I heard today the remarkable news that the Deutsche Bank in Frankfurt has decided to establish the headquarters of its investment bank in the City of London. Had anybody told me that a few years ago, I should not have believed it.
The service industry has a role to play. Many Opposition Members spend a lot of time discussing manufacturing. I have no problem with that, but in our attempt to stress the importance of manufacturing, we must not begin to turn the tables of argument against services, which are huge employers and great businesses.
The result of all that inward investment is, as my hon. Friend the Member for Hertsmere said, unequivocal good news for Britain's productivity, manufacturing, exports and, above all, jobs. It would not be reasonable for the Government to claim the entire credit for that good news because a great deal of credit must go to the people in those businesses who make the environment attractive to outside investors, as well as to the managers and people on the shop floor who are making it happen. They are now going out into the world in a way that was not done for far too many years, and selling Britain to the world.
An example of that is taking place in Surrey, where my constituency is located. We have already heard an advertisement for Hertfordshire, so I shall now advertise Surrey. About a year ago, a remarkable organisation called Surrey First was established. It is a partnership between the county council; the DTI, which has put in some pump-priming funding through the local TEC; local businesses; and the university. All those groups have got together to spend not enormous sums of money but a little money wisely to promote the attractions of Surrey to the outside world in order to attract inward investors. In the past few days, Surrey First has produced a brochure. We have heard much argument today about what business men do or do not look for in Britain when seeking to relocate and invest and whether they look at such matters as wage rates. The brochure is clear evidence of what business men really believe in. The companies behind the Surrey First scheme include Sony, Ericsson, Colgate-Palmolive, and Procter and Gamble, and they give their reasons for investing in Britain. The first reason is low labour costs, the second is record productivity and the third is low taxation. The companies mention the lack of exchange control, the skilled work force and low inflation. They say that 24-hour, seven-days-a-week production is standard in many industries. Those are the reasons that international business men give for investing in Britain and I hope that that settles the argument once and for all about the importance of having a flexible labour market. Opposition Members have been doubtful about that. I have quoted what the business community is saying.
I shall spare my blushes by not going on to read out the section of this excellent book that says:
"Why Surrey represents the best in Britain."
Column 1172However, I must tell my hon. Friend the Member for Hertsmere that we are highly competitive with Hertfordshire and that we shall give it a good run for its money.
The hon. Member for Middlesbrough made a good point when he said that we live in the real world and that the real world involves some form of selective Government assistance. No Conservative Member would disagree with that. The other important point to bear in mind is that in the real world, there is no point in putting taxpayers' money into industry if the basic requirements are not being met. Our worry is that the Labour party's policies would ensure that those basic requirements were not met.
Mr. Ainsworth: The hon. Member for Brent, South (Mr. Boateng) says that that is nonsense. Not only Conservative Members, but the Financial Times disagrees with his analysis. Last year, the paper said:
"Labour's corporatist, interventionist instincts are alive and putting the boot into the free market. Those who thought Labour had forsaken the profits are dirty, bash big business' mentality of the post-war decades are in for a rude awakening."
On almost every front, in terms of the key criteria that international business men hope to see in a country in which they are looking to invest, Labour policies would be disadvantageous. Labour would reduce the flexibility of the labour market. Labour would, of course, build a relationship with the European Community and we are all in favour of that, but it would also bind Britain to the social chapter and to rigid, dirigiste employment formulas that do not reflect real life.
Labour would substantially put up rates of corporate tax. I notice that the proposals by the hon. Member for Dunfermline, East (Mr. Brown) to close loopholes, as he put it, in the corporate tax system were interpreted as follows by Mr. Howard Davies, the director general of the Confederation of British Industry. He said: "what Gordon Brown is talking about on the business front is not a loophole closing exercise' at all, rather a massive increase in business taxation . . . an almost 25 per cent. increase in the current corporation tax yield."
That is hardly likely to attract Japanese investors and other investors whom we need so much if we are to continue to build our economic prosperity.
What would Labour do on the important front of deregulation, where the Government are making determined strides to cut red tape and to get the bureaucrats off the backs of our business men? The hon. Member for Livingston (Mr. Cook) said of the deregulation initiative that it was an attempt to extend new killing fields to industry. The hon. Member for Cannock and Burntwood (Dr. Wright) said in a debate on deregulation that in the old days, Labour thought that an element of state control was needed to bring a social benefit into industrial policy, but that now it could do so with regulation. I fear that that is not the message that international business people want to hear. The hon. Member for Morley and Leeds, South (Mr. Gunnell) made an excellent point against himself in his long speech. I was listening carefully, and the hon. Gentleman dwelt at some length on the extreme concern in the international business community about the, albeit remote, prospect of a Labour Government in the United Kingdom. After the debate, the hon. Member for Brent,
Column 1173South will be interested to read at his leisure what his hon. Friend the Member for Morley and Leeds, South said on the subject. It was the only true comment that he made during his long speech. The growth in world trade, the economic regeneration that has occurred and is continuing to occur in this country, and the opportunities that are opening up for inward and outward investment are fundamentally the product of capitalism. The House would do well to remind itself of that fact. Those developments are not the product of socialism, however prettily dressed up or nicely presented. 1.45 pm
Lady Olga Maitland (Sutton and Cheam): I welcome this important debate on inward investment. I particularly welcomed the exuberant and competent speech by my hon. Friend the Minister, who told the House about our tremendous success story over the years. I found it strange that, when the hon. Member for Middlesbrough (Mr. Bell) replied, we listened to him for 50 minutes and did not once hear from his lips a single Labour party policy to attract inward investment. That may have been because Labour Members know that, if they told the truth, inward investors would run away.
When challenged, the hon. Member for Middlesbrough chose not to develop the theme of Labour's socialist planning. It is not surprising that he did not examine the cost to industry caused by a Labour party policy such as its commitment to the social chapter. It is right for Conservative Members to draw attention to the weaknesses of that policy, but I want to focus on the minimum wage.
The Opposition have failed to understand that, if they introduce a minimum wage, they increase wages. If one man's wage is increased, the price of the product is increased and another jobless figure is created because another man will be put out of work to support that job increase.
Mr. Boateng: How many jobs have the exorbitant increases given to the chairman and directors of numerous privatised industries cost? How does the hon. Lady justify her attack on the minimum wage when, time and again, company directors have awarded themselves, or had awarded to them, increases out of all proportion to their own productivity? Is not the hon. Lady applying double standards in this case, as in so much else?
Lady Olga Maitland: I fear that the Opposition have been stung. The hon. Gentleman should have been asking why 1,000 German companies have chosen to come to Britain. It is because we have not signed up to the social chapter. We need to concentrate on the real issues, rather than trying to create a fog.
I shall focus on the investment that we receive from Japan. At present, 41 per cent. of Japan's inward investment into Europe comes directly to Britain. Germany attracts just 9 per cent., and France even less. In total, the United Kingdom benefits by £29 billion, embracing an estimated 75,000 jobs--a success story. Overall, inward investment from all over the globe has brought nearly 52,000 jobs to the south-east.
Column 1174My constituency has benefited to that end. Overseas investors say that they are attracted by a combination of factors. Good communications are important. On that score, I totally beat both Hertsmere and Surrey, for Sutton has excellent access to two major airports --Gatwick and Heathrow. My hon. Friends cannot beat that. Furthermore, in respect of Japanese inward investment, we can offer a number of excellent golf courses. That is not a major reason for coming to our part of the world, but it is an important factor. More serious factors have been mentioned by a number of my hon. Friends, notably by my right hon. Friend the Member for Tonbridge and Malling (Sir J. Stanley). English is a common business language, and the UK has a well-trained work force at reasonable cost and good labour relations. The size of our domestic market, good co- operation between local and national government, good infrastructure and the speed at which overseas companies can set up new plants are other considerations.
Perhaps the most important factor of all is the UK's membership of the single European market. It is seen as an asset, while at the same time making it possible to obtain the best deal. It ensures that employers are not shackled by the social chapter of the Maastricht treaty, and preserves employers' freedom from over-regulation and under-flexibility of labour. In short, the UK provides a good jumping-off point to the rest of the continent. It embraces the best of the European Union and sidesteps the worst.
I make no apology for repeating the point made earlier that it is not surprising that Jacques Delors said of our opt-out that Britain would become a "paradise for Japanese investment". That point was not lost on UK industry. In June, a Gallup survey revealed that eight out of 10 of Britain's top companies supported opting out of the social chapter, and the same proportion believed that Labour's commitment to signing the social chapter would damage British business. In a memo to the Trade and Industry Select Committee when it was inquiring into the competitiveness of UK industry, Toyota said that it chose the UK as a base because Europe is seen as its best single market, and that Toyota had long held the view that it was beneficial to manufacture products in or near the place where they are used. Hence the attraction to Toyota of being based in Britain, close to what it sees as its biggest single market.
Toyota said that the UK already had a reasonably sized domestic market, a tradition of car manufacturing, and a work force well equipped to produce quality work. Other companies have also made the point that being based in England provides them with good access by air to the continent.
However, some take a different view. Earlier this month, my right hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Thames (Mr. Lamont) said that Britain should think again about whether it should remain a member of the European Union. He said:
"One day it may mean contemplating withdrawal . . . As a former Chancellor, I can only say that I cannot pinpoint a single concrete economic advantage that unambiguously comes to this country because of our membership of the European Union."
Predictably, those comments were headline news within hours. Not so predictable was the reaction overseas.
Little did my right hon. Friend realise that, as news of his speech percolated through to Japan, the telephones began to ring at the British embassy in Tokyo. During my
Column 1175visit to Japan last week with the Education Select Committee, I was told that concerned business men were asking whether it was really true that Britain was planning to withdraw from the European Union--because if so, they would have to rethink their strategy. They want their companies based in the European Union, not outside it. The UK's membership of the European Union on our terms, unshackled by burdensome restrictions, is what makes it so attractive. Overseas companies consider it more important to be in the European Union than to try to sell into Europe from their domestic locations. A good example of the response comes from the international toy-making company Tomy Toys, whose European headquarters are in my constituency. It is the main distribution point for this country and the whole of Europe. The managing director left me in no doubt at all where the company stood. He told me:
"Mr. Lamont's proposal is positively detrimental. The implications are extremely serious for us. We regard Britain as our flagship in Europe and jumping board to the rest of the continent. Our board of directors in Tokyo chose Britain because of its membership of the European Community.
If Britain left the EC we would not wish to become isolated from the rest of Europe. I have no doubt we would move our main operations to Brussels leaving a small English company here."
Indeed, the net result would be redundancies and job losses. More significantly, the many companies which benefit from subcontracted work would lose out as well. Tomy's contribution in the United Kingdom to income and jobs for others who support them is very significant. For example, all the advertising and public relations agencies which have earned millions popularising brand names would be affected. All the millions that go to transporting the toys would be lost as well. The toys, in future, would go straight to Brussels. Therefore, P and O shipping would be badly hit. Jobs would undoubtedly suffer.
The same would be the case for British companies which had been contracted to make toys. At present, a toy factory in Essex is poised to land an excellent contract, which would mean more local jobs. It won that contract in the face of stiff competition, but it would shrivel away.
A Britain outside the European Union would mean that those contracts would go elsewhere. The director of Tomy concluded: "Our work in Britain would be severely curtailed. We have no intention of operating outside the European Union."
They are sobering words indeed.
Another company, Nissan, made a similar point when it said that, after having invested £900 million, if Britain were to move outside the EU, it would cease future investment here. Nissan, too, has plants in other parts of Europe, especially in Spain, which would benefit, not Britain. That would be a great pity, bearing in mind that Britain has been such an attractive inward investment jumping board. To kill the very advantages that we have built up would be, to my mind, totally pointless.
We have a tremendous track record. I emphasise that we must keep the very best, we must fight like tigers in the European Community to maintain our standing. I do not believe that it is a foregone conclusion that we would lose any of our ground. It is the Opposition only who are making such assertions, which are totally erroneous. We tell a success story, and we should continue in that area of business.
Column 11761.57 pm
Mr. Nigel Evans (Ribble Valley): I am grateful to be able to contribute to this rather important debate. We have heard advertisements for the attractions of inward investment in all parts of the United Kingdom. Now it is time to listen to the voice, if not the accent, of the north-west of England, where, I suppose, in many ways, I am an example of inward investment from Wales.
I am extremely grateful to be able to point out some of the attractions, not only of the north-west, but of the United Kingdom. During the debate, we have heard the roll of honour of companies who have come to the UK from all parts of the world. They could have set up in various other parts of the European Union and taken the advantages of the Union, but they decided to come to the UK, and for very good reasons.
It has been estimated that inward investment in the UK affects around 275,000 jobs, but when families are brought into the equation, we are talking about more than 500,000 people. I do not need to over-emphasise the fact, because it speaks for itself how important those jobs are. One of the major attractions to inward investment is the Government's approach, which stresses free trade to maximise world economic growth, as seen by the Government's role in the GATT talks. That economic policy aims to create an arena for lasting growth. As has often been said, it is a policy of deregulation--I had the benefit of being a member of the Standing Committee which considered the Deregulation and Contracting Out Bill--which attracts inward investment.
Various other factors are important. They include creating the right environment. That is what the Government are doing. They also involve low inflation. I was rather surprised that the hon. Member for Middlesbrough (Mr. Bell) referred to inflation. I should have thought that Labour Members would be the last people to draw attention to inflation.
Industrial relations have also greatly improved as a result of the changing policies for trade unions. Productivity has been enhanced. When that is coupled with a lower tax environment--more so than our partners overseas-- we can understand why foreign investors wish to come here.
One of the greatest achievements of my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister related to the negotiations on the opt-out in respect of the social chapter in the Maastricht treaty. There is now increasing support for our opposition to that absurd piece of socialist claptrap. If people want socialism in this country, they have an opportunity to vote for it in general elections.: they certainly do not want it to be rammed down their throats from the European Community. Such a policy could only cost jobs. Clearly, our refusal to sign up to it has encouraged inward investment at the expense of our European colleagues, as we have heard from Jacques Delors. The north-west is doing extremely well with regard to inward investment. Much of that must be due to INWARD, the agency in the north- west. Much reference has been made to partnership in the debate. INWARD's latest report reveals the partnership between leading figures in the north- west, all the major local authorities--
Column 1177including, I am proud to say, Ribble Valley and Preston councils and Lancashire county council--and a host of major industries which are keen to see other industries come in and enjoy the skills and advantages that we have to offer in the north-west.
In September, INWARD announced that, in the last six months, it has attracted 25 new inward investments involving £90 million-worth of direct capital investment, with more than 1,300 jobs being created or safeguarded. Much of the credit for that must go to the managing director, Basil Jeuda.
INWARD is fortunate because the product that it is selling has a relatively highly skilled work force. In that regard, I draw the attention of the House to ELTEC, which is the training and enterprise council in my area. It is doing so much to ensure that we have investment in the training force of the north-west with Investors in People, and that as much as possible is done to take advantage of national vocational qualifications and the GNVQ in schools. ELTEC is playing an important role in the region to ensure that, when companies come to the north-west, they can take advantage of a properly trained and skilled work force.
I said that we have done rather well in the north-west, but we could do even better. We have a wonderful infrastructure, but it could be improved. Manchester airport is the 16th largest international airport in the world. With the recently announced "open skies" policy, Manchester airport will do even better in future. There has been wonderful investment in Manchester airport, and I hope that there will be further investment to ensure that it does not lose its role as an important regional airport.
We believe that more freight should be carried by rail. In that regard, there should be more investment in the west coast line, to ensure that we have the proper infrastructure to carry goods. While there should be investment in rail, there should also be investment in roads. There should not be investment in one at the expense of the other. Anyone who has travelled down the M6 to the M5 will be aware of the massive bottleneck that people face whenever they approach Birmingham. That can add one or two hours to journey times. We must ensure that there is a balanced approach to road, rail and air infrastructures.
We have seen some fantastic successes in the north-west. Last month, I visited 3M in Clitheroe, and I saw its wonderful work in precision metering aerosol valves which are used by asthmatics. Also, there is research into producing chemicals to replace chlorofluorocarbons, so that we do not damage the environment. That is a result of the protocol we signed, and it is to be applauded.
At the Conservative party conference, I was able to see what Nynex was doing in Bournemouth as a forerunner of what it will do in our area. It has already announced a £1.2 billion investment in what is called the super-highway. That must be welcomed as well. The project will be worth 5,000 jobs.
Champion Spark Plugs, an American company, has its headquarters in the Wirral. Sanko Gosei, a Japanese firm and one of the world's leading plastics technology companies, has its European base in Skelmersdale. New Balance has found the north-west an ideal location for the
Column 1178manufacture and distribution of its performance athletic shoes. Its European headquarters are in Warrington, and its manufacturing facilities are in west Cumbria.
INWARD has convinced the Siemens Group of the advantages of its newly developed gas meters being manufactured in Oldham rather than in Germany. That has resulted in that German company investing almost £10 million in the region, and safeguarding more than 100 direct jobs.
I am proud of the investment in the north-west. I have much information on the Labour party's reaction to it, but, because of the new-found partnership with the Labour party, I shall put it to one side. [Interruption.] I shall keep it. I had hoped that Labour Members would say something, but they did not. We have become used to that.
We must continue to attract as many companies as possible. The Government's policies are the right ones to do so. It would cost thousands, if not millions, of jobs if we turned our backs on those policies and followed the Labour party's policies.
I welcome the Minister to the Dispatch Box in his new capacity in respect of trade and industry matters. I am sure that he will enjoy future debates as much as he has enjoyed this one.
The hon. Member for Ribble Valley (Mr. Evans) caused me to have an hallucination at the Labour party conference. I wondered whether I had had too much to drink, too much to eat or too little sleep, because there he was, promenading along the corridors of the great and the good. I was relieved to learn that he was doing a Granada Television programme.
The hon. Gentleman made an important point about something that I tried to say--probably not too well--which was that our infrastructure is one reason why we attract inward investment. Our present infrastructure must be improved.
I wish to rectify one slight point. The hon. Member for Derbyshire, South (Mrs. Currie) said that in 1993 the United Kingdom was host to more inward direct investment than any other European Union member state. I said that in 1992, the latest year for which comprehensive information is available, the United Kingdom was host to 11.5 per cent. of global inward direct investment and was the third most important host country after the United States and France. There was no contradiction between us. I wish to record my appreciation of the Library's work in producing its research document at such short notice.
The debate wandered a little. I was accused of asking the country to adopt Albanian-style policies. I do not quite know--
Mr. Bell: No, that was my hon. Friend the Member for Rotherham (Mr. MacShane). I was accused of Albanian-style policies. I have been almost as maligned as the right hon. Member for Kingston upon Thames (Mr. Lamont). He was the ghost at the feast, wandering along the corridors of the House and on to the Floor of the House without being mentioned.
Column 1179I appreciated the interventions of the right hon. Member for Tonbridge and Malling (Sir. J. Stanley) and of the hon. Member for Falmouth and Camborne (Mr. Coe), who made a constructive speech in the interests of his area and of the wider subject. My hon. Friend the Member for Rotherham was maligned; somehow Geneva and Rotherham were linked. A foundry worker ended up being a resident of Geneva. These things happen in debates on Friday.
My hon. Friend the Member for Morley and Leeds, South (Mr. Gunnell) made a weighty contribution that added considerably to our knowledge of the subject. He made the important point, which was taken up towards the end of the debate, that it does not do our country any good to threaten or warn that the introduction of the social chapter by a future Labour Government would diminish inward investment. Anything that can weaken confidence abroad is not in the interests of the United Kingdom. I am pleased to see the hon. Member for North Devon (Mr. Harvey) in his place because he made a cogent intervention as well.
I was grateful for the intervention of my hon. Friend the Member for Stockton, North (Mr. Cook) because he was able to put the investment from Samsung into a context that we had not had previously, taking us back to the days of Rediffusion. He mentioned the chief executive of Cleveland county council, Bruce Stevenson, whom I met on a plane to London. I asked him where he was going and he said Seoul, South Korea. Cleveland county council put a lot of effort into attracting the Samsung contract to that area, and got it. We must put inward direct investment in context. In 1993, we had inward investment of £9 billion. Our total gross domestic product was £630 billion, our total fixed investment was £95 billion, our total exports of goods and services were £158 billion and total expenditure on mergers and acquisitions of industrial and commercial companies within the United Kingdom was £7 billion.
Labour has constantly supported the concept of inward investment; no one would be foolish enough to say that it has not. The hon. Member for Eastbourne (Mr. Waterson) referred to inward investment into Middlesbrough. What we want is a balanced debate and a balanced argument, taking inward and outward investment together. If we held the sort of debates to which my hon. Friend the Member for Stockton, North referred--less partisan and more constructive debates--there would be an echo from the public.