back to article Bill to protect UK against harmful foreign investment becomes law

In a move akin to calling the fire brigade after your house has burned down, the UK government today announced the passage of a bill that would afford it powers to intervene in potentially hostile direct investment. The National Security and Investment Bill, which was introduced last November and has since received royal …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Harmful foreign "investment" in political parties.

    Will that be covered? How about in the London property market?

    1. Mike 125

      Re: Harmful foreign "investment" in political parties.

      Damn you beat me to it...........

      I was going to ask does it cover Boris Johnson selling most of London to Russian oligarchs who are happy with assassination, and Saudi princes who favour beating women?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Russian Oligarchs

        Started coming here in the 1990s. Under Tony Blair, it became a big problem. There are shops in West London where you can hear many different Russian dialects all at the same time. It was in one of these that I met my wife.

        |In recent years, President (for life) Putin has grown more dictatorial /Stalinist and the trickle has become a flood. Those Russkies bring money into the country. How legal much of it is.. is another question entirely.

        This is a different economic problem from the one of buying up a UK company and setting its IP, jobs and everything abroad.

        1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

          Re: Russian Oligarchs

          So are we welcoming these anti-Putin, pro-democracy refugees?

          What's Home Office policy on rich white refugees?

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Russian Oligarchs

            Rich pro-democracy Russians? That is a good one.

            They're Putin's friends, they became rich thanks to him, and could afford to pay their way into the City to launder some of it outside of Russia. Hence why the trickle could become a flood.

            Rich Russians who lose their friendship to Putin don't stay rich very long if they've not laundered a lot already.

            1. KBeee Bronze badge

              Re: Russian Oligarchs

              Ex Putin "friends" quite often end up dead.

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Russian Oligarchs

            I just my flat to wealthy Russians. They paid over asking price, told me not to bother cleaning it etc and paid up quickly.

            Zero complaints.

            Before this sale, I had two other lowball offers from Brits fall through for the dumbest reasons.

            Some daft fucking old Scottish trout that decided there were "too many other houses and flats nearby"...it's fucking London.

            ...and another one that moaned because she'd have to get new carpets because the brand new existing ones were the wrong colour.

            We've got bigger problems with our own people to worry about before we concern ourselves with foreigners buying up property.

            They only manage to get the property they want because they don't fuck about.

            I moved into a house from my flat that I managed to get a good deal on because I didnt fuck about. I didn't care about the decor, carpets etc etc...those things can all be changed.

            1. First Light Silver badge

              Re: Russian Oligarchs

              Yes, they were in a rush to launder those dirty roubles. Nice washing machine you provided there.

      2. You aint sin me, roit Silver badge
        Trollface

        Come on now, be fair...

        Saudi princes are happy with a bit of assassination too...

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Come on now, be fair...

          True, but at least they minimise collateral damage. The FSB takes out everyone in the blast/ radiation/ nerve-agent-spread zone.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Harmful foreign "investment" in political parties.

      Who gives a shit about London housing now? Who needs to go to London after proving that remote working works? You can live in and work from anywhere now.

      Don't give me any shit about working in the same building as colleagues is better, face to face is useful etc etc....it's not worth £2k-£3k a year commuting costs. Save your money, wait for Covid to end, then go on a fucking awesome holiday to get over "missing your awesome workmates", they're not your friends, they'll throw under the nearest bus for a payrise...get over it.

      Most firms are, sensibly, moving to a hybrid setup. Mostly remote, occasionally onsite. If your boss isn't apply for a job elsewhere...plenty of firms hiring right now that will let you pick your setup.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Harmful foreign "investment" in political parties.

        You presume that the available housing stock supports this, i.e. space to have a home office. The majority of modern housing doesn't.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Harmful foreign "investment" in political parties.

        London housing bubble will self-sustain. those of us living outside of it simply don't care about it.

        That's a vast majority of the popultion.

  2. 45RPM Silver badge

    Consecutive governments, with the Conservatives in the vanguard, have allowed our most precious national assets to be sold off to the highest bidder without much in the way of scrutiny.

    Lyons

    Rover

    Apricot

    Acorn

    ARM

    Inmos

    Plessey

    Reuters

    Jaguar

    Cadbury

    Rowntree

    British Steel

    …I could go on. The point is the the lions of British industry, those companies which powered our wealth, have been stripped and sold. We have virtual nothing left now that our political masters have grown fat by slaying our golden geese.

    Brexit offers no protection - if anything, it’s made matters worse because some of those companies were sold to our erstwhile friends in the EU and they may have felt some duty to their ally before we demonstrated ourselves to be untrustworthy and lacking in sense. Those countries of the EU, by and large, have the good sense to protect their Crown Jewels. We should have done this decades ago, when we still had some.

    1. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge

      re: Jaguar

      JLR was sold to Ford in 2000 and then Ford sold it in 2009 to Tata.

      Both of those deals were done with a Labor Government in power.

      Both main UK Political parties have questions to answer on this whole mess. I can remember Mt Gannex himself talking bollocks about 'the white heat of technology. Even he wasn't afraid to sell parts of the UK Industrial crown jewels to Johhny foreigner.

      1. 45RPM Silver badge

        Re: re: Jaguar

        I thought I was clear that this wasn’t exclusively a Conservative problem. I said ‘consecutive governments’ not ‘conservative governments’. The Tories have merely hoovered up the majority of the trough, not quite all of it.

      2. idiot taxpayer here again

        Re: re: Jaguar

        @Steve Davies 3

        No doubt, like me, you will remember "electricity" to cheap to meter?

        You have made me feel a proper old fart. Time to go play Mony Mony and the rest of that era's records...

      3. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: re: Jaguar

        I can remember Mt Gannex himself talking bollocks about 'the white heat of technology.

        Shortly before cancelling TSR2.

    2. MOV r0,r0

      Without outside capital Acorn would have failed before there was a chance to spin out ARM which itself was financed with US capital (Apple) from a US idea (UC Berkeley RISC) needing US tools (VLSI). The CEO, 12 engineers and the rented barn were British but their starting with a global aspect is what allowed them to achieve global success. Big money is global, if you start being fussy about which geography it comes from not only does it massively restrict your choice of provision but the investors worry about you letting it leave and it just stops coming.

      Don't know why Rover was on your list - certainly not near the top - and it had itself (and perhaps nationalisation) to blame for the state it ended up in which was so "precious" the tools had to go to one mainland Chinese company while the drawings went to another which might have provided a bit of work around Longbridge for a while but it took the CCP to amalgamate both buyers into one company to fix that fire-sale.

      There'll be a story behind every organisation on your list, either their inability to change and compete at a global level or their success at doing so leading you to no longer consider them British. This country has a far bigger problem globalising local successes than it does hanging on to companies that have achieved it and your comment that there is, "virtual nothing left now" plainly isn't supported by UK treasury receipts - even the massive debt pile we're building is evidence the market thinks we're good for it in future.

      Your whole message reads like you're afraid of the world thinking it's enough to retreat into the EU's protectionist bunker mindset but the EU is only half of Europe and even all of Europe isn't enough. If previous occupants of these islands had taken your attitude we would never have set sail to trade around the world with the consequence that few on your list of "lions" would have come into existence anyway. I suspect 47 years of EEC/EU membership has fuddled some people's perspectives.

      1. Snapper

        Actually, you've made the first argument for Leave I've read that I can respect. It's possibly bollocks or possibly not, but a reasonable opinion and I will delve further.

        I doubt Brexit will make any difference however.

    3. JassMan Silver badge

      You missed GKN off your list. What they don't know about steel alloying and heat treatment probably isn't worth knowing. All now in the hands of a non-Brit hedge fund.

      1. Krassi

        GKN

        are owned by Melrose, a UK registered company quoted on the London stock exchange. They may be sharks, but they are British sharks. Melrose too is more of a conglomerate than a hedge fund.

    4. IGotOut Silver badge

      Rover?

      This was a pointless money pit that was supported year in, year out with government bailouts.

      Most cars from the 70s onwards were utter shit and it was riddled with mismanagement and staff who wanted to work a 3 day year.

      Yes I know many ex-rover employees and many will tell you the same, especially when they've had a few beers and have removed the rise tinted glasses.

      1. KBeee Bronze badge

        Re: Rover?

        Yeah, when The Home Of British Car Making was finally being demolished, they found a secret area where the "workers" could have a nice kip. Watching an interview with a union rep I noticed he was Quite Well Off (personaly) while all his "mates" were now out of work, and their kids had no jobs to look forward to

  3. mark l 2 Silver badge

    Isn't money from China building Hinkley Point nuclear power plant?

    How does that fit in with these new laws?

    1. nullptr

      We have - for once - May's government to thank that Red China are only bankrolling Hinkley Point, rather than building their own design of PWR. Shame we killed our indigenous nuclear industry so that we're forced into buying old designs in new bottles at vast expense. One can only hope the SMR programme delivers something good; although it's a shame that (AFAIK - might well be wrong) the entrant with good experience of building reliable PWR reactors in the ~100 MW range hasn't got a separate contract to build some SMRs soon.

  4. Trigun

    Decades late

    The aquisition of valuable UK companies and IPs by foreign controlled entities has been going on for decades and has been a known issue for all of that time. I'm glad that someone has eventually started to try and put on the breaks a bit, but I'd love to know why on earth it took this long to do.

    1. MOV r0,r0

      Re: Decades late

      We should be flattered that global entities are interested in investing in our stuff. It's also in your interest that your pension fund doesn't restrict it's investments to UK sovereign territory and even your local council providing local services will have funds invested globally.

      Money flows are global, you're correct that this has been going on for decades but it's really nothing to be afraid of.

      1. Trigun

        Re: Decades late

        I'm not advocating no outside investment or takeovers - I'm saying it needs to be properly regulated to ensure that any aquisition, merger, etc. will long term be good for the country and that we don't allow *all* UK companies to be purchased as soon as they become lucrative, especially via hostile takever.

        The impression that I've received over the years is that it's be a *very* hands off type of control and even when conditions have been agreed with companies so such deals can go ahead they sometimes subsequently break those conditions.

        Don't get the impression this is UK=good, non-UK=bad. It's not about that; It's about having our politicians and government agencies do their dmaned jobs properly.

  5. Nick Ryan Silver badge

    The government has always had the powers to block foreign ownership of UK companies. It's profiteering and short-termism that let things go through.

    The fact that many of the UK companies have been bought using extensive loans which are then immediately transferred to the bought company is yet another endemic problem with the corruptness of it all.

    1. Mike 125

      Yep. The British culture has become: grow, and sellout as fast as possible, for the fastest buck. Never mind investing for the future.

      Oh, and: posh people don't do engineering. That's for plebs.

      1. Snapper

        Chip, much?

  6. Chris G Silver badge

    "what's left to protect, save for our innovative jam industry? ®"

    The Marmite industry is still thoroughly British, although it was invented by a German.

    From the article, it doesn't sound as though there is much to define when the government should or should not intervene, just as there is little to define what constitutes national security.

    1. idiot taxpayer here again

      @Ghris G

      Have upvoted you for having the guts to use the word "Marmite", which as everyone knows is the poor mans "Bovril".

      Have a groovy weekend and more than a few pints...

      1. BebopWeBop Silver badge
        Happy

        A downvote - only because you are a heretic

      2. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge
        Pint

        re: more than a few pints...

        speaking of which.... because we have not been drinking as much beer there is a shortage of Marmite.

        I'll be having a few bottles of Sussex Pale Ale tonight just to help out... honest guv.

      3. mickaroo

        Downvoted because Bovril is for making gravy and Marmite is a spread for toast. It's like comparing apples and oranges.

        Move on folks, no "poor man's Bovril" here...

  7. jonfr

    UK gets more irrelevant

    This type of laws always result in one thing. UK becomes a place where no foreign investment happens. Unless the government begs for it. This is continued path of failure that current UK government has been following in recent months. Brexit being the largest of all failures in history.

  8. xyz Silver badge

    I thought...

    That the gov thought that all foreign investment was harmful. That's why they did brexit.

    1. Snapper

      Re: I thought...

      Really, with all those spivs and con-men in charge? How would their little hedge fund manage without a little corruption between chums?

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    What happened to Free Markets?

    You know, what the Conservatives used to support?

    Innovate, Build a company, Sell on. Repeat.

    Or can't we hack it anymore?

    1. Intractable Potsherd Silver badge

      Re: What happened to Free Markets?

      How about innovate, build a company, keep it, invest in another one? If you sell your company, all the love and determination goes away, and the buyer just wants it for money.

  10. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

    Sound Advice .... Don't Meddle with or without Absolute Command and/or Immaculate Control.

    IT's Incredibly Dangerous

    Additionally, private entities and investors will have to warn the government about any prospective transactions regarding sensitive sectors such as artificial intelligence, quantum technologies, and space.

    All transactions and activities regarding artificial intelligence, quantum technologies, and space prospect in sensitive sectors. The wording above suggests that the government will require that a few here warn the government about prospective transactions because of their freely shared interest in novel sensitive sectors, not necessarily confined or defined by the three exemplars mentioned, and in which some vectors in those sectors be certainly engaging and expanding, and have every likelihood of being ludicrously rewarding whenever floated out to investors and sugar daddies/sharks and whales on the many various capital markets, both light and dark sided.

    And .... if one warns government of that very real likelihood, and I at least, because of a long and undeniable, well enough known interest in C42 Quantum Communication Control Systems .... AI@ITsWork hereby now proactively and preemptively do, and would Register as a Mass BetaTest Pilot too, for the efficacy and legitimacy and equity of the National Security and Investment Bill, would advise that failure to provide, .... in the event of a governmental decision to try to block either a sale or simple free virtual transfer of devastatingly sensitive proprietary intellectual property, maybe formerly unknown or secretly squirrelled away for the exercise of overwhelming inequitable advantage, ....... principal parties adequate and fair comparative free market valuation compensation, can create and may deliver to government a whole other new world of expensive pain and disruptive and destructive grief, and all because of their own crazy doing and malevolent bidding.

    To misquote from a classic address delivered in the past ....... The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist, and presently, is gravely to be regarded

    Do yourselves all a huge favour and listen to no nonsense, and imagine how much further things might have progressed in the space of nearly half a century ......

    You have meddled with the primary forces of nature, Mr Beale, and I won't have it! Is that clear?

    You think you merely stopped a business deal. That is not the case. The Arabs have taken billions of dollars out of this country, and now they must put it back! It is ebb and flow, tide and gravity. It is ecological balance.

    You are an old man who thinks in terms of nations and peoples. There are no nations. There are no peoples. There are no Russians. There are no Arabs. There are no Third Worlds. There is no West. There is only one holistic system of systems. One vast and immane, interwoven, interacting, multi-varied, multi-national dominion of dollars. Petro-dollars, electro-dollars, multi-dollars, reichmarks, rands, rubles, pounds and shekels.

    It is the international system of currency which determines the totality of life on this planet. That is the natural order of things today. That is the atomic, and sub-atomic and galactic structure of things today.

    And YOU have meddled with the primal forces of nature. And you will atone.

    Am I getting through to you, Mr Beale?

    You get up on your little twenty-one inch screen and howl about America and democracy. There is no America. There is no democracy. There is only IBM and ITT and AT&T, and DuPont, Dow, Union Carbide and Exxon. Those are the nations of the world today.

    What do you think the Russians talk about in their Councils of State? Karl Marx? They get out their linear programming charts, statistical decision theories, mini-max solutions, and compute the price-cost probabilities of their transactions and investments, just like we do.

    We no longer live in a world of nations and ideologies, Mr Beale. The world is a college of corporations, inexorably determined by the immutable bye-laws of of business. The world is a business, Mr Beale. It has been since man crawled out of the slime.

    And our children will live, Mr Beale, to see that ... perfect ... world in which there is no war nor famine, oppression or brutality. One vast and ecumenical holding company for whom all men will work to serve a common profit. In which all men will hold a share of stock.

    All necessities provided. All anxieties tranquilized. All boredom amused. ...... https://youtu.be/zI5hrcwU7Dk

    Sound Don't Meddle Advice, 45 years ago ..... and even more so with specific particular and peculiar regard to concerning escaping matters today.

    1. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

      However, Re: Sound Advice .... Don't Meddle .. Do Not Yet Despair and Prepare to Grieve Prematurely

      And there are a very fortunate few, particularly and especially so in the fields of quantum, where a bit of this can be a byte of that and something else together altogether quite different and disturbing, exciting and destructive, who are in the extremely enviable position of being worthy of being obscenely richly rewarded in as close to absolute secrecy as is physically possible, either for agreeing to not presently further share what sensitive information and earth-shattering intelligence they may be suspected of definitely having for sharing and trading, until such times as others themselves may also be able to make and take fuller advantage of it, or agreeing to subsequently share it with a carefully selected and highly appreciative few, although that latter option does add the twin complicating problem of deciding who be worthy, and who decides who be worthy, to an already exhaustive equation.

      It doesn't take one to be an Einstein to know what is the better for all, simpler route root to boot and enjoy until such times as definite difficulties are equitably and amicably resolved, ...... but where madness and stupidity have a tenuous hold on the reality of others, one can always be surprised and terrified as a result of some nonsensical decisions taken around some round tables in some high offices and around some high tables in some oval offices.

      Humanity has a long history and is very well known to excel in getting things serially disastrously wrong because of a lack of seriously advanced intelligence.

      1. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

        Now though, ... Ready, Steady, Go .... No Matter whether Friend or Foe ‽ ‽ :-)

        So, now that all the niceties and cares of implied and/or imposed duties with regard to any possible future arbitrary self-serving government requirements have been here clearly enough taken care of, it's down to some great virtually magical, earth shattering affairs of stellar state and ground-breaking business, after first entertaining an expectant pregnant pause to allow for any friendly interest or hostile activity to manifest itself. You know ...... a temporary wait and see to discover if there is anyone out there on similar quantum wavelengths and of a pleasant disposition or content to be intent on trying to provide malevolent competitive opposition.

        1. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

          Re: Ready, Steady, Go >>>>>>> Lift Off

          It is next to impossible, for any smarter body furnished with more than just a titter of exceptional wit, to not see and understand that deposited trio of posts freely shared above, as being at the cutting-edge of technology in order to stay ahead with responsibilities for the teams which create and adopt technologies to enable missions against the hardest of adversaries turning disruptive technologies from threats to operations and into opportunities presenting treats, putting one at the leading edge of digital innovation. ....... https://www.saxbam.com/appointment/mi6/ ..... although of course, to such things are so many totally blind and blind-sided, and thus be they catastrophically vulnerable to and/or helplessly defenceless against and unprepared for both opportunistic operational threats and surreal attractive treats alike ..... viable virtually realisable attacks/sensitive sensational information pumps and dumps.

          It is certainly something which any future manifestation of a Q/ICQ2Q would be surely bound to encounter and be expected to demonstrate a secure intelligent bond with, in order to be able to do practically anything with IT in the field.

  11. razorfishsl

    Yep.... like you KNOW Apple are behind this with their lobbying.......

    The time for this law was BEFORE ARM was sold to Chinese investors.......(go look into who & what REALLY owns ARM....)

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Once again with feeling...........................

    .................horse, stable door, oh dear!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    *

    No one mentioned the (old fashioned, twentieth century) idea of "an industrial strategy". This idea is based on trying to identify industry or technology which might need protection -- even if it means paying more for local product.

    *

    But that would be a "No"!!! Lets have a "race to the bottom on cost" strategy......if it's cheaper elsewhere (Japan, China, Singapore) then that's where we will buy it.

    *

    The poster child for this approach would be Apple -- manufacture in China, get billions in profits in Cupertino. And while this might look good, in the mean time Chinese technology and manufacturing is gearing up to destroy Apple. And as Chinese wealth is building, Western universities are getting dependent on Chinese students. And while this revenue source also looks good, in the mean time Chinese academia is strengthening, and Western academia is being hollowed out.

    *

    Tell me again why "race to the bottom on cost" is such a good idea.

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