HC Deb 20 July 1981 vol 9 cc10-1
9. Mr. Richard Page

asked the Secretary of State for Industry what is the present progress of the recently introduced initiatives to help small businesses.

Sir Keith Joseph

The loan guarantee scheme has received an enthusiastic response from small businesses. The Department has already issued 150 guarantees covering loans totalling £5.3 million. The business start-up scheme has generated a great deal of interest from both small businesses and potential investors. The business opportunities programme is now well under way.

Mr. Page

I thank my right hon. Friend for that most encouraging news about the loan guarantees scheme. As there is an obvious need for such finance, will he give the House an assurance that he and his Department will take further steps to expand the facility?

Sir Keith Joseph

That would be going too far at this stage. We want to see how things go before we make any further decisions. There are resources available to let the first stage develop before we take further decisions.

Mr. Edwin Wainwright

When will the right hon. Gentleman admit that the Government's policies are nothing but a sheer failure? The Government may be making a contribution to helping small businesses, but what results have been forthcoming? Is he aware that we could do with some help in the Dearne Valley area, where unemployment in the Mexborough district is 20.6 per cent.? When will the Government do something to provide jobs and to create a greater understanding between themselves, the banks, management and work forces, to make sure that we get out of the rut that we are in?

Sir Keith Joseph

The hon. Gentleman is very fervent, but I wish that he would understand reality. People, many of them totally innocent, are suffering as the chickens come home to roost after years of Government overspending, patchy management and, in many cases, unco-operative work forces.

Mr. John Wells

Will my right hon. Friend take steps to extend the system, particularly to the dockyard areas that may suffer becuse of projected closures over the coming years?

Sir Keith Joseph

The system, as my hon. friend calls it, applies to the whole country and the dockyard areas are included in it.

Mr. John Garrett

Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that two years of small business Government policies have had no effect on the survival or formation of small businesses? The policies were meant to be purely cosmetic and are inisignificant compared with the industrial collapse caused by the Government's other policies.

Sir Keith Joseph

That is rubbish. There is strong evidence that, despite the climate of international recession and continuing high inflation, small business interest and foundation are increasing. We do not have precise statistics, but on the anecdotal evidence it is clear that all over the country small workshops are being snapped up by willing tenants in manufacturing as soon as they are provided.