HC Deb 02 March 2000 vol 345 cc540-1
6. Mrs. Louise Ellman (Liverpool, Riverside)

What new measures he plans to introduce to assist entrepreneurs to set up new businesses. [111535]

The Minister for Small Business and E-Commerce (Ms Patricia Hewitt)

The new small business service will offer information and advice to anyone who wants to set up a new business through an internet-based gateway. We are creating a volunteer business mentoring programme, and we will support community finance initiatives to help people start businesses in disadvantaged areas.

Mrs. Ellman

Will my hon. Friend meet me and others to discuss proposals for a community-based investment fund in Toxteth, Liverpool? Does she agree that every possible effort should be made to support entrepreneurship in the inner city?

Ms Hewitt

I entirely agree, and I should be delighted to meet my hon. Friend and her colleagues who have taken an important initiative. I cannot make a prior commitment, but we shall establish this year a £30 million phoenix fund designed to back business start-up and community finance initiatives in disadvantaged areas.

Mr. Nick St. Aubyn (Guildford)

One of the most important contributions to the start-up of new businesses is made by information technology consultants who may be employed on an occasional basis. Does the Minister share the view taken by the Secretary of State that consultants who order their affairs so that they accumulate capital in their business rather than paying out money as salary are tax dodgers and evaders, against whom, presumably, criminal sanctions should apply? Are those people not in fact exactly the sort of entrepreneurs we should encourage rather than driving them overseas?

Ms Hewitt

IT contractors and others who are genuinely self-employed will continue to be treated as such. Those involved in tax avoidance will, however, be dealt with under anti-avoidance measures, and I am sorry that the hon. Gentleman does not support that.

Ms Debra Shipley (Stourbridge)

Does my hon. Friend agree that young people are the future of businesses in Britain? What words can she offer those leaving colleges and schools in Stourbridge to encourage them to go into business and, in particular, to go into business for themselves or set up new businesses?

Ms Hewitt

My hon. Friend makes an important point. The new national enterprise campaign, which will be launched by the Confederation of British Industry and British Chambers of Commerce, will, I hope, attract many young people leaving college or university into self-employment and business start-up by showing them shining examples of entrepreneurs who have done just that?

Mr. Nick Gibb (Bognor Regis and Littlehampton)

What extra costs does the Minister believe that highly regulatory and interventionist measures such as the Utilities Bill will impose on entrepreneurs, particularly in the IT and telecoms sector? The Government have today announced the embarrassing withdrawal of all the telecomms sections of the Utilities Bill; would they also consider withdrawing the plethora of regulations that are costing business £5 billion a year and stealth taxes on business costing £25 billion?

Ms Hewitt

No. Let me remind the hon. Gentleman of what the shadow Secretary of State, the hon. Member for Tiverton and Honiton (Mrs. Browning), said recently. She said on regulation that: as a Minister under the previous Government … We would be the first to say that we did not do very well.—[Official Report, 19 November 1999; Vol. 339, c. 250] The fact is that the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development concluded in its report last December that after two and a half years of Labour Government, the United Kingdom had less economic and administrative regulation than any other OECD country, including the United States of America. We are continuing to improve the regulatory environment and to simplify conditions for businesses.

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