HC Deb 16 December 1986 vol 107 cc1044-5
8. Mr. Richard Page

asked the Paymaster General how he plans to strengthen the links between the small firms service and local enterprise agencies.

Mr. Trippier

There is considerable and growing contact between the small firms service and local enterprise agencies. Small firms service counselling now takes place in over 30 local enterprise agency offices and all English LEAs now have details of SFS counsellors in their region. The LEAs make extensive use of SFS publications. SFS managers and LEA directors meet regularly. I am encouraging the development of these contacts.

Mr. Page

I thank my hon. Friend for that progressive reply. I know that he is aware of the excellent work that is carried out by the local enterprise agencies in advising businesses and creating new jobs. May I ask him to take it one stage further by linking up, through the small firms service, to the BOTB to give pro-active advice to small businesses on exporting, because it is on exporting that the future success of this country depends?

Mr. Trippier

I welcome my hon. Friend's suggestion. Apart from their hand-holding task, local enterprise agencies clearly adopt a pro-active stance within the communities in which they operate. They are in a strong position to advise people on exporting. As long as my hon. Friend's proposals fit in with what the BOTB would like, there should be no difficulty about implementing them. They could represent a good advance for the local enterprise agency movement.

Mr. Wrigglesworth

Does the Minister accept that there is a need for much greater co-ordination of the services provided to small businesses? Are not small businesses sometimes confused by all the advice that is given to them by local authorities, educational institutions, chambers of commerce, enterprise agencies, the Government and other sources? Will the Minister do something to try to achieve better co-ordination of these services?

Mr. Trippier

I should have thought that the hon. Gentleman would accept my view that local enterprise agencies should be the one-stop shop, providing not only the hand-holding service but the signposting service that is so necessary. They are in a very good position to have strong links with further education colleges, with the small firms service to which I have already referred, and with any available training organisation. I know that the hon. Gentleman supports the local enterprise agency movement, and I welcome his support. Both he and I must try to ensure that every person in the land knows that the local enterprise agency should be the one-stop shop and the first port of call.

Mr. Patrick Thompson

Is my hon. Friend aware that in Norwich the links between the small firms service and the local enterprise agency have been working well? Obviously, however, it must be good to increase the links. I thank my hon. Friend for the support that he has recently given to the Norwich enterprise agency trust. Does he agree that we must use every possible means to encourage more young people to set up in business, thereby increasing employment?

Mr. Trippier

On my hon. Friend's latter point, I was privileged to visit officially the local enterprise agency in Norwich and I was most impressed by what I saw. My hon. Friend is absolutely right when he says that the connection between the local enterprise agency and the small firms service seems to work perfectly well in that part of the country.