PM makes global investment appeal
David Cameron has made an appeal for more international investment in Britain as the coalition struggles to haul the economy out of the worst double-dip recession in half a century.
After figures revealed a worse-than-expected third consecutive quarter of decline, the Prime Minister told the first of a series of trade summits being held during the Olympics: "Britain is back open for business."
But he rejected calls for a change in policy to stimulate the economy, saying the Government would "finish the job" of tackling the deficit.
Sound finances have to be teamed with measures to boost competitiveness in order to restore the UK's economic fortunes, he said. He also faced tough questions from business leaders over the coalition's approach to immigration and expanding aviation capacity.
The 0.7% contraction in GDP between April and June was much more severe than the 0.2% fall that forecasters expected. Britain is now mired in the longest double-dip recession since quarterly records began in 1955, and possibly since the Second World War.
In a speech to a global investment conference at Lancaster House, Mr Cameron said: "My message today is very simple: Britain is back open for business, and we are committed to supporting global growth with open trade between our nations. So invest in Britain, partner with Britain, not just to invest in this country, but because this is the place, the hub, from which your company can grow and expand. So make this Olympic year a great year for your business, here in Great Britain."
Official figures released on Thursday show that the number of inward investment projects in the UK has fallen for the third year in succession. Ministers said the numbers were "very positive" because they showed foreign direct investment created or secured more than 112,000 jobs in the UK in 2011/12 - 19% up on the previous year.
The business summit is the first of 18 being held during the Olympic period to capitalise on the presence in London of thousands of world leaders, policymakers and investors. The Government hopes more than £1 billion worth of deals and projects can be generated over the summer on the back of the Games, with a further £13 billion worth over the two or three years to come.
Mr Cameron was asked about restrictions on workers coming into Britain. He said the immigration system "was really not serving the country well" when the coalition came to power. But he stressed there was "no limit" on students entering the country if they can speak English and secure a university place.
Referring to concerns about tighter immigration policy, Mr Cameron added: "I don't want that in any way to get in the way of the growth story here in the UK."