HC Deb 12 December 1983 vol 50 cc667-8
19. Mr. Mark Robinson

asked the Secretary of State for Wales how many inquiries were made of small firms information centres in Wales in 1980, 1981 and 1982.

Mr. Nicholas Edwards

My Department has one small firms centre which provides advice and information to small firms throughout Wales. The centre dealt with 7,053 inquiries in 1980, 10,604 in 1981 and 14,929 in 1982.

Mr. Robinson

Does my right hon. Friend agree that these figures show the success of the Government's policy in assisting small firms? In that context, does he welcome the establishment of such enterprise agencies as the Newport enterprise agency and the contribution being made by industry to help those agencies?

Mr. Edwards

It is encouraging that the number of inquiries to the small firms centre should have doubled between 1980 and 1982, and that the number has been increasing since. I also confirm that the enterprise agencies are making a valuable contribution, which I discussed on Friday with the Welsh board of the Manpower Services Commission. We shall seek to encourage these agencies and welcome the contributions being made to them by industry wherever they are set up.

Mr. Roy Hughes

Does the Secretary of State appreciate that a number of small building firms in Newport are finding that their improvement grant jobs are being stopped when they are half completed because of the Government's new restrictions? This is when the materials are virtually rotting in the building yards and building workers are standing idly in the dole queues. Surely those are the economics of the madhouse.

Mr. Edwards

Newport council decided, unlike most other district authorities in Wales, not to give improvement grants the highest priority and not to use the maximum quantity of resources available for improvement grants, but to use capital resources for other projects which, presumably, it considered had higher priority. That fact must also be taken into account.

Mr. Rowe

Does my right hon. Friend agree that, although the number of inquiries about small firms is encouraging, the loan guarantee scheme has played an enormous and valuable part in the formation of new small businesses? Will he assure the House that he will do everything in his power to support its continuance and improvement?

Mr. Edwards

The loan guarantee scheme has made a notable contribution since being amended. I welcome that. Perhaps the greatest service that we can now render is to improve the supply of information through professional bodies and in other ways so that businesses are fully aware of what can be done through that scheme.