4 December 2020
Westminster Diary - We must protect ourselves from hostile forces

As we continue to fight coronavirus, we want to strengthen our position as one of the most attractive places in the world to do business.

The UK economy thrives as a result of foreign direct investment (FDI). In just ten years, investment from overseas has created more than 600,000 jobs in Britain, benefiting every corner of the country – including here in Reading.

But under no circumstances should we allow deals to be made that compromise this country's national security or the safety of our citizens. That is why I have introduced new laws to shore up our fortifications against malicious investment – upgrading powers which are nearly 20 years old – as some of our closest allies such as the US and Australia have done.

This is a critical issue. In recent years, a small minority of hostile forces has been using increasingly novel means to undermine British interests. For example, acquiring sensitive assets such as a business's ideas or intellectual property.

As they grow wilier, we in turn need to make our defences stronger.

The reforms in the National Security and Investment Bill will mean investors and businesses will have to tell government about proposed deals in sensitive sectors, such as defence and artificial intelligence. 

As Business Secretary, I can also 'call in' any transaction in any sector that could threaten our safety, to ensure no dodgy deal can slip through the net. Most transactions will be unaffected by these powers, but we will be able to catch the small amount of transactions that do raise national security risks.

We want to keep vital finance flowing from trusted sources – to keep improving productivity, to keep generating new jobs for Brits. But to do that we need a screening regime that is fit for purpose.

We need a regime which provides certainty and transparency to businesses and investors by working to clear timelines and making administrative procedures smooth.

A pro-investment, pro-security regime allows us to open our arms wide to embrace new, creative investment, while firmly turning the lock on those looking to sneak in and do us harm.

The National Security and Investment Bill will shine a spotlight on any deal that raises a national security risk, whilst allowing legitimate and welcome investment to continue flowing - protecting jobs and businesses here in Reading and across the country.