HC Deb 21 June 1989 vol 155 cc323-4
7. Mr. Cash

To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster how many applications have so far been received for consultancy projects under the enterprise initiative.

Mr. Newton

More than 28,000 applications for assisted consultancy projects have been received since the launch of the scheme in January 1988. Building on this success, my right hon. and noble Friend the Secretary of State yesterday announced improvements to make it easier for smaller firms to obtain the advice they need to improve their performance, and to extend the role of enterprise counsellors to cover single market issues.

Mr. Cash

Does my right hon. Friend agree that although it is encouraging to see the emphasis being placed on marketing in these consultancy projects, quality seems to be falling back to second in line although it is impossible to sell and market things if they are not of sufficient quality? With regard to the trade deficit and competitiveness, would it not be helpful to put extra emphasis on the importance of quality so as to ensure that we deal with the real reason for the trade deficit, which is that some countries are producing higher quality goods than we are?

Mr. Newton

Yes, I agree with my hon. Friend. One of the improvements that my right hon. and noble Friend the Secretary of State announced yesterday was greater emphasis on total quality management in one of the consultancy initiatives.

Mr. Grocott

Will the Minister tell us how much the television advertising campaign for the enterprise initiative has cost? Will he do the arithmetic and tell us how much each successful application has cost as a proportion of total television advertising costs?

Mr. Newton

There would be no point in an initiative of this sort if it were not brought extensively to the attention of those at whom it is aimed. The response has been substantial. Our surveys have shown that many of the firms which have acknowledged the benefits that they have gained from the consultancy initiative would not otherwise have sought that advice and help, which is improving the competitiveness and quality of British industry.

Mr. John Townend

Is my right hon. Friend aware that in my area several small firms have taken advantage of the scheme and have benefited from the Government-aided consultancy? Does he agree that every effort should be made to increase the take-up among small firms because many are sceptical and some are frightened of consultants? Does he further agree that one way of doing that would be to have a register of small firms which have used the scheme satisfactorily and which would be available to act as referees for other small firms sceptical about the scheme?

Mr. Newton

I note and will consider my hon. Friend's suggestion. We are aiming the scheme at small firms. It is satisfactory that of the 28,000 applications to which I have referred, about 90 per cent. have been from firms employing fewer than 100 people. One of the new measures announced in the past two or three days is designed to make the scheme even more user-friendly to small firms.

Mr. Hoyle

Will the right hon. Gentleman please answer a direct question and tell us the cost of that television advertising and the cost per application take-up?

Mr. Newton

I have already made that clear to the hon. Gentleman's hon. Friend, the hon. Member for The Wrekin (Mr. Grocott). The point about such a scheme is that because of the advantages that it entails we should bring it to the attention of those at whom it is aimed, and that has been achieved.