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PM aims to show open borders with new investment office

Written by on 12/10/2020

Boris Johnson will this week seek to portray Britain as a welcoming destination for foreign investors by unveiling plans for a Downing Street operation aimed at securing backing for multibillion-pound infrastructure projects.

Sky News has learnt that officials at Number 10 are coordinating the launch of a unit called the Office for Investment, which insiders say will be tasked with identifying and coordinating major initiatives including the delivery of new gigafactories.

It is understood to have been orchestrated by Lord Grimstone, the minister for investment, who was recruited into government by the prime minister earlier this year.

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Lord Grimstone, a former chairman of the asset manager Standard Life Aberdeen, was the architect of Margaret Thatcher’s privatisation spree during the 1980s.

Dominic Cummings and Sir Edward Lister, Mr Johnson’s two closest advisers, are also understood to have been closely involved in the plan.

By basing the new investment office in Downing Street, the PM hopes to send a signal to foreign investors that their interest in ploughing money into the British economy will be “closely chaperoned”, according to one insider.

A new team is to be recruited to work alongside Lord Grimstone, who will chair the Office for Investment, they added.

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Its creation is expected to be announced alongside the publication of the National Security and Investment Bill, which will hand the government new powers to scrutinise overseas acquisitions of British companies and assets.

Sir Gerry Grimstone will be chairman of the new company
Image: Lord Grimstone will chair the Office for Investment

Some members of Mr Johnson’s administration have expressed concern that the bill may act as a deterrent to foreign investors, just as the UK-EU transition period reaches its conclusion.

One official said the new investment office would provide “a clear demonstration of the UK’s openness”.

A No 10 spokesperson said: “This government recognises that foreign investment will play a key role in our economic recovery from COVID-19 and is a major part of our plan to boost productivity by backing businesses to create good jobs and develop skills.

“The UK is already one of the most attractive countries for overseas investors and we’ll work hard to ensure that remains the case.”

 Sky News

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