HC Deb 10 December 1973 vol 866 cc19-20
16. Mr. Redmond

asked the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry how many persons are employed in the small firms division of his Department.

Mr. Chataway

Twenty-six. The staff of the small firms information centres—30 in all—are on the strength of the Department's regional offices.

Mr. Redmond

Will some of these people go to Bolton to advise and help some of the small firms which have been writing to me over the past eight or nine months about the total absence of supplies of wood, steel, phenol, Polythene and, now, textiles fibres and yarns? Also, while they are there will they examine another problem which I have raised on other occasions in the House, namely, the anxiety of these firms and some of their suppliers, who say that they must not in any circumstances disclose their names for fear of victimisation by other suppliers or by one of the nationalised corporations?

Mr. Chataway

On the last point, if I understand my hon. Friend aright, I am satisfied that there is no discrimination against small firms on the part of the British Steel Corporation. As regards supplies of steel and other materials, the small firms information centres can put small firms in touch with those who can give them expert advice.

Mr. Alan Williams

Will the Minister bear in mind that many small firms feel that they are swamped by the administrative expenses of VAT? Does he recognise that with the present and probable future rate of inflation many small firms which are not now covered by VAT will be drawn within the net, and for this reason will the Government alter the threshold figure? Second, how will the Department protect small firms from the EEC proposal, already adopted by the Commission, which, far from raising the threshold figure, would actually lower it?

Mr. Chataway

I shall certainly bear in mind the effect on small firms of any proposal on the scope of VAT, but I must say that I do not find among small firms any hankering after SET.

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