HC Deb 27 November 1986 vol 106 cc422-3
9. Mr. Bellingham

asked the Ssecretary of State for Northern Ireland what steps he is taking to encourage smaller businesses in Northern Ireland.

Mr. Viggers

The Government provide a comprehensive range of assistance, training and support to encourage the small business sector. I recently announced an increase in the budget of the Local Enterprise Development Unit from £17 million to £21 million a year in order to enable it to provide further assistance for the development of existing small firms.

Mr. Bellingham

Does the Minister agree that after the devastating announcement by Harland and Wolff it is more important than ever to encourage indigenous entrepreneurs and community-based small businesses? Will he do what he can to support the enterprise allowance scheme and local enterprise programmes?

Mr. Viggers

In connection with the first point raised by my hon. Friend, I pay tribute to the adaptability of the management and the work force at Harland and Wolff and wish them well in winning further orders, because that is the only way forward for the company. My hon. Friend also spoke about the local enterprise programme and the enterprise allowance scheme. I pay tribute to the large number of business men, academics, trade unionists and others who give their voluntary efforts to a number of groups and schemes to promote enterprise and employment. Their practical assistance and guidance are of special value in encouraging smaller businesses.

Mr. Nicholas Brown

Following the 800 redundancies at Harland and Wolff, is there not a great danger that that company will become one of the smaller businesses which the Minister is supposed to be encouraging? Will he give a commitment to continue to provide financial assistance to Harland and Wolff to enable it to get Ministry of Defence work?

Mr. Viggers

The Government have shown their commitment to Harland and Wolff in the announcement made yesterday about the large external financing limit. The way ahead for Harland and Wolff is to win further orders, and the company is very efficient and in a good position to do that.

Mr. Bell

Some 800 men will lose their jobs at Harland and Wolff. Is that not a direct consequence of Tory policies? The Tory onslaught on the Northern Ireland economy is affecting the lives of ordinary men and women there, and that is why 800 men at Harland and Wolff have lost their jobs.

Mr. Viggers

The hon. Gentleman is less than fair. The Government have shown their commitment to Harland and Wolff. We have a high regard for the management of the company and wish it well.