HC Deb 21 December 1982 vol 34 cc807-8
1. Mr. Lee

asked the Secretary of State for Employment if he is satisfied with the progress of the enterprise allowance scheme in North-East Lancashire.

The Under-Secretary of State for Employment (Mr. Peter Morrison)

I am quite satisfied with progress so far in implementing the scheme in all five pilot areas, and I look forward to the final evaluation of the results.

Mr. Lee

I thank my hon. Friend for visiting Pendle earlier this year to see how the enterprise allowance scheme is working and for the encouragement that he has given to it. As no fewer than 550 people in North-East Lancashire alone now operate businesses under the scheme, does my hon. Friend agree that this excellent scheme should be continued beyond the spring of next year? In particular, will he consult his ministerial colleagues in other Departments to see whether the scheme could be promoted on a national basis?

Mr. Morrison

As my hon. Friend said, I saw the operation of the scheme when I visited his area. I enjoyed the visit very much. I know that he pays particular regard to it. It is early days to say whether we can extend the scheme on a national basis. It is true that the take-up has been significant. My hon. Friend mentioned 550 in North-East Lancashire. The figure for the country as a whole is more than 1,700.

Mr. Arthur Davidson

Useful as this little scheme is, what real impact will it have on the catastrophic unemployment rate in North-East Lancashire, which the Government have helped to make into one of the worst black spots in Lancashire?

Mr. Morrison

I am glad that the hon. and learned Gentleman welcomes the scheme. He will be aware that more than 500 people in North-East Lancashire have taken up the scheme. If those people develop their businesses substantially, there will be a major impact on that part of the country in the provision of employment.

Mr. Trippier

I support my hon. Friend the Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. Lee) in his appeal to my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State. The scheme has been an enormous success in Rossendale. It has allowed many of my constituents to start up in business on their own account at little cost to the Exchequer. Will my hon. Friend bear that in mind when considering whether to extend the scheme?

Mr. Morrison

I know that the scheme has been a success in my hon. Friend's constituency. Those who have taken up the scheme are already providing employment opportunities. However, as I said to my hon. Friend the Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. Lee), it is a little early to evaluate the results.

Mr. Campbell-Savours

In a festive spirit of apolitical objectivity, I support the comments of the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. Lee). Why do not the Government introduce the scheme in areas that now have enterprise zone status and link the enterprise zone to enterprise status, thus short-circuiting the need for us to await a national review and national decisions?

Mr. Morrison

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his support. I know that he, too, has paid particular regard to the scheme. He told me on another occasion of the idea that he has put before the House this afternoon. Of course we shall consider it. However, a little more time is necessary to evaluate the results.