HC Deb 30 January 1978 vol 943 cc24-6
49. Mr. Madden

asked the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster what representations he has received about the Council for Small Industries in Rural Areas.

Mr. Lever

In the course of my study of the problems facing small firms, I have received several representations referring to the valuable work of COSIRA in this sector. I have had discussions about COSIRA's work with its chairman and the chairman of its parent body, the Development Commission.

Mr. Madden

Does my right hon. Friend agree that both the Development Commission and COSIRA have an invaluable role to play in rural areas in combating unemployment and creating employment opportunities, especially in establishing small workshops? Is he optimistic that they will have more money available to carry on and expand their responsibilities in the near future?

Mr. Lever

I can without reservation endorse the view that my hon. Friend has expressed about the value of the work that COSIRA has been conducting. It has recently had increases in its funds made available, and I am discussing with colleagues, and officials are discussing, whether we can give further help to this invaluable body and its most necessary work.

Mr. Wigley

Will the right hon. Gentleman say whether there are any limits below which COSIRA or, in Wales, the Development Agency for Mid-Wales can lend money? If there are such limits, will he take steps to investigate the possibilities of having lower levels of loan available? Does he agree that that is one of the most useful aspects of help available in rural areas?

Mr. Lever

I shall consider with sympathy the question raised by the hon. Gentleman.

Mr. Ridsdale

Has the right hon. Gentleman made inquiries about the working of the Employment Protection Act, especially in rural areas? Is he aware that many industries that I have visited have called for the repeal of the Act so as to get more employment in their areas?

Mr. Lever

I have been made aware of anxieties which derive from that Act. However, the House has made its view perfectly plain about the purposes of the Act.

Mr. Prior

What is the right hon. Gentleman's view?

Mr. Lever

The right hon. Member for Lowestoft (Mr. Prior) wants to know my view. I endorse the purposes of the Act. I am anxious to ensure that those purposes are achieved with the minimum of difficulty for smaller firms, recognising that there are special problems that face smaller firms in relation to this and other legislation. Without in any way derogating from the purposes and standards of the Act, I should like to find ways of easing the difficulties of small firms.

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