§ 4. Mr. Dormand
asked the Secretary of State for Industry if he will give further details of the conference which will be chaired by the Under-Secretary of State for Industry, the hon. Member for Norfolk, South (Mr. MacGregor) in the Northern region later in 1981.
§ The Under-Secretary of State for Industry (Mr. John MacGregor)
This conference, which will be held in Durham on 1 December, is one of a series of regional conferences which form part of the Government's business opportunities programme. The objectives are to provide a forum to bring together existing and prospective small business men and women and those who can help them, and to publicise and discuss the many practical steps that the Government have taken to help small businesses.
§ Mr. Dormand
Is the Minister aware that 100 conferences will not make the slightest difference to the Northern region if the Government do not change their basic policies? As unemployment has increased in the region every month since this Government came to power, has it not occurred to the Government that their regional policies might be wrong? At this conference, will the Minister pay particular attention to the matter of apprentices in the North, because they are the lifeblood of the region, and the present position augurs badly for the future?
§ Mr. MacGregor
As the hon. Gentleman knows, unemployment rose heavily under the last Government, too, in the region. We debated the wider issues fairly recently. I urge the hon. Gentleman not to neglect the role that new and small businesses can play in this respect. The Government have taken many practical measures, and it is necessary that people become more aware of them. He will be glad to know that in his own region many small firms centres received about 4,000 inquiries in the first five months—double the number last year—and that one-third of them were from people wanting to start up businesses of their own. That will make a contribution.
§ Mr. Campbell-Savours
Will the Minister act on the findings of the conference in the event of its criticising the Government?
§ Mr. MacGregor
We shall certainly listen to what people tell us about new and small businesses. There is also a good deal of evidence that the 60 measures that we have taken during the past two years to help small businesses are having their effect.