No ‘coordinated approach’ to levelling up foreign direct investment, say MPs

The International Trade Committee today publishes the Government’s response to its report on Inward Foreign Direct Investment.

The report, published in September, explored the Government’s strategy for promoting and facilitating foreign direct investment (FDI). It outlined how current patterns of FDI perpetuate the economic dominance of London and the South East and called for the Government to show it has a plan to maximise the benefits of FDI for all parts of the UK.

In its response, the Government commits to explaining in its planned levelling-up White Paper how investment promotion will contribute to delivering “economic benefits to every nation and region of the UK”.

The Committee recommended that the White Paper “should include reference to policy on infrastructure, skills, higher education, integrating with Global Value Chains and further devolution of powers in the English regions”.

The Government accepts the Committee’s recommendation that skills policy should be joined up with investment promotion at the sub-national level – and that higher education should be fully engaged at that level too.

No new information on the role of the Office for Investment (OfI) is provided, and the Government swerves a recommendation to keep the Committee updated on the OfI’s performance. Instead, it commits to considering whether performance metrics for the Office should be included in the annual accounts of the Department for International Trade.

Commenting on the Government response, Angus Brendan MacNeil MP, Chair of the International Trade Committee, said:

“Inward foreign direct investment can be a force for good in local communities, generating new jobs and bringing new skills.

“When we published our report earlier in the autumn, we called on the Government to show it has a plan to maximise the benefits of inward investment as part of its plan to ‘level up’ disparities between different parts of the UK.

“It remains unclear whether the Government has even considered such a plan. Without a coordinated approach, it is likely that foreign direct investment will continue to overwhelmingly benefit London and the South East.

“We eagerly await the publication of the promised ‘levelling up’ White Paper, to see whether there is actually any substance behind all the rhetoric.”