HC Deb 13 December 1976 vol 922 cc958-60
19. Mr. David Mitchell

asked the Secretary of State for Industry if he has made any assessments of the likely effect of the 2 per cent. increase in national insurance on the small firms sector.

Mr. Cryer

I have no evidence that the small firms sector as such will be significantly more affected by the surcharge than any other sector of business.

Mr. Mitchell

Is it not correct to say that this 2 per cent. jobs tax will take over £200 million out of the small firms sector when it is the Government's policy to increase investment? Do the Government have a Minister responsible for small firms? If so, is he satisfied with what he is doing?

Mr. Cryer

The Government have a Minister in charge of the small firms sector. The hon. Gentleman knows this full well because he referred to me recently in a debate when I was actually meeting representatives of the small firms sector of the CBI. The Government have great concern for small firms and have expressed this on a number of occasions. We shall continue to have regard for the small firms sector. We have made specific provision, for example, by lowering the level of corporation tax on profits up to £30,000. Following representations, we made specific alterations to the capital transfer tax in order to encourage the small firms sector. Only recently we put into effect a number of other encouraging factors for the small firms sector. It ill becomes the hon. Member for Basingstoke (Mr. Mitchell) to continue his carping criticisms in this way. He knows that the Government are taking action wherever possible.

Mr. Cope

If the Minister does not know the effect of that measure on small firms, can he tell us the effect of the cut of £1 in REP for men, which comes into effect shortly, on the small firms sector in development areas?

Mr. Cryer

I am staggered that the hon. Gentleman should take that sort of view. As I recall, the Conservative Government were going to abolish REP completely. We retained it and have made it fairer as between men and women. We have no evidence that it has had any deleterious effect. Our evidence so far is that REP is still a welcome inducement to investment and the maintenance of employment in the assisted areas.

Mr. Spriggs

Will my hon. Friend be a little more forthcoming? Many of us would like to know the identity of the Minister responsible for small firms, because most constituency Members have to deal with the problems of small firms. Would he tell us which Minister is responsible?

Mr. Cryer

My natural self-effacing modesty did not allow me to spell out the fact that I am in charge of small firms on behalf of the Department of Industry and the Government. My hon. Friend will be pleased to know that only last week I met the representatives of the small firms sector of the CBI. I have also visited a number of small firms as part of a continuing programme of visits and interchange of discussion with representatives of small firms.