HC Deb 16 September 2004 vol 424 cc1436-7
2. Mr. Jim Cunningham (Coventry, South) (Lab)

How many new business start-ups there were in Coventry, South in the last year for which figures are available.␣[189171]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Trade and Industry (Nigel Griffiths):

In Coventry, it is estimated that there were 1,800 business start-ups in 2003. The latest official figures based on VAT registrations show that 620 businesses registered for VAT in Coventry, which is a welcome increase on the previous year.

Mr. Cunningham

I thank my hon. Friend for that answer, but may I ask what assessment he has made of the potential withdrawal of Jaguar from Coventry, and what the impact would be on small businesses, bearing in mind the fact that more than 4,000 jobs could be at stake were Jaguar to pull out of Coventry? What assistance has Ford had in term of grants over the past 18 years from Government?

Nigel Griffiths

I am not aware that any decision has yet been taken. Jaguar, I understand, is considering its operations, but is rightly insisting first on briefing its work force on the company's future production plans. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State will, of course, discuss the implications of any decision with the company as soon as an announcement—if any—is made.

Brian Cotter (Weston-super-Mare) (LD)

The Minister refers to increasing numbers of people going into business. Is he aware of figures that I have received from the Library this week that since 1992, the number of young people aged between 16 and 29 starting their own business has fallen by some 39 per cent? I ask the Minister to consider that in view of the fact that we need to encourage enterprise, particularly among young people. Will he also address the great concern that people who go to university, whom we need to start businesses, will be burdened by debt after university and will therefore be unable to get started?

Mr. Speaker

Order. That is very wide, but perhaps the Minister can answer some part of the question.

Nigel Griffiths

In relation to business start-ups in Coventry and elsewhere, I do not recognise those figures at all. Last year, 63,000 young graduates started businesses. Last week, Barclays published a survey of new business start-ups, which showed that 288,000 businesses started in the first six months of the year, an increase of some 19 per cent. on last year.

Last year's figure of 455,000 new businesses represented a 19 per cent. increase on the previous year, the largest since Barclays began its surveys in 1988. Both start-ups and the Government's record are very strong.

Mr. Michael Foster (Worcester) (Lab)

As my hon. Friend will know, many businesses starting up in Coventry will be there to support the motor industry and Jaguar in particular. Will he and the Secretary of State impress on the Ford Motor Company that it risks losing the distinctive marque—the Britishness—of the Jaguar if it is seen rolling off a production line somewhere in Detroit?

Nigel Griffiths

I know that my hon. Friend speaks with much authority, having worked at the Browns Lane plant for many years. I fully appreciate that the smaller companies—small and medium-sized enterprises, of which there are dozens in the supply chain—depend on that level of work. That is why, as part of its manufacturing review a few years ago—the first major review for 30 years—the Department focused on the issue, and the automotive sector has benefited. None the less, I share my hon. Friend's concern about the implications of any cuts in any factory on the supply chain and on SMEs.