HC Deb 30 January 1985 vol 72 cc271-2
10. Mr. Maclean

asked the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what plans he has for improving publicity for the small firms service.

Mr. Trippier

I am keen to ensure that small business men are fully aware of the advice and information available from the small firms service. We are at present advertising in the national and regional press to promote greater use of the service.

Mr. Maclean

I thank my hon. Friend for his reply. Why is it thought necessary to run a Government information service through the small firms service when private initiatives are being taken in this regard?

Mr. Trippier

The small firms service provides a national facility, which offers consistent quality. It does not seek to compete with other initiatives, which are very welcome. It is a complementary service to local initiatives. Those services offered at local level are very much appreciated.

Mr. Cyril Smith

Will the Minister attempt to ensure not only that the small firms service is known throughout the community but that small firms are assisted to become known throughout the world? The deputation that is to go to China does not, so far as I am aware, contain any representatives of small firms. That is a great disappointment to small firms in my part of the world. What steps has his Department taken to ensure that small firms are represented on such delegations?

Mr. Trippier

Small firms are normally well represented on delegations abroad and the British Overseas Trade Board is anxious to encourage that. I shall certainly consider seriously the particular point that the hon. Gentleman has raised.

Mr. Robert Atkins

I congratulate my hon. Friend on the work that he has done for the small firms service. Does he not agree that there is room for involving people apart from those who would otherwise be retired in giving advice to potential small business men on developing businesses, in that the older people tend to be slightly out of touch with current developments concerning small business advice?

Mr. Trippier

I am grateful to my hon. Friend. I am anxious to encourage people who are working in industry, some who are semi-retired and some who are retired, to come forward. Many of them will have a significant contribution to make. It is important to underline that in the local enterprise agency movement mushrooming throughout the country we have a source of business counselling dealing with problems at the sharp end, which is invaluable.

Mr. Haynes

Does the Minister recall that in the 1979 election campaign the Conservative party said that it intended to help small businesses because that was where jobs would come from? Since then, year by year, more and more small firms have fallen by the wayside. Does he appreciate that if nothing is done about that problem there will be no small businesses left to publicise?

Mr. Trippier

If the hon. Gentleman would open his ears rather than his mouth, a whole new world might be opened up to him. As I pointed out in reply to an earlier question, a net increase in small firms in this country has led to greater employment. I am glad that he referred to the commitment to small firms in our 1979 manifesto. We have consistently continued that commitment, but it was notably absent from the Labour party manifesto in 1979 and also in 1983.