HL Deb 06 March 1984 vol 449 cc137-8
Baroness Sharples

My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question standing in my name on the Order Paper.

The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government how many forms relating to small businesses were abolished between 1979 and 1983.

The Minister of State, Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Lord Belstead)

My Lords, figures on Government forms prior to 1982 are not available, but in the year February 1982 to February 1983, 4,705 of the estimated 17,000 Government administrative forms to business and industry were reviewed. Of these, 640 were abolished and a further 658 redesigned. Many of these would have been sent to small businesses.

Baroness Sharples

My Lords, I thank my noble friend for that reply. May we hope that this trend will be accelerated? Can my husband—I apologise: can my noble friend please see that these forms are sent out not in gobbledegook but in plain English?

Lord Belstead

My Lords, I thank my noble friend for her very friendly supplementary question! I hope it will be good news to my noble friend that the VAT leaflets have won plain English awards, so I am advised, in two of the last three years; and that, as I am also advised, the new Inland Revenue income tax return has become simpler and less forbidding as a result of the reviews which have been going on. Yes, I can reply to my noble friend's other point. I do not know about the trend being accelerated, but we shall certainly press on.

Lord Avebury

My Lords, while commending the efforts of the Government in relieving the load on small businesses, does not the arithmetic of the noble Lord's Answer indicate that 16,360 forms may still be sent to these people? Do they not have an enormous amount of work to do in trying to comply with the demands of the Government, even after the efforts of the year for which he has given figures?

Lord Belstead

My Lords, with respect to the noble Lord, that does not mean 16,000-odd too many. This is about more than just cutting out waste. The whole thrust of our policy is to give good service and good value for money, and that is what we are trying to do.

Lord Wells-Pestell

My Lords, can the noble Lord indicate how many small businesses have gone into liquidation since 1979?

Lord Belstead

My Lords, I cannot answer the noble Lord's question in the way that he put it. I can tell the noble Lord that 20,000 more small businesses started up than went out of business between 1980 and 1982.

Lord Stoddart of Swindon

My Lords, will the noble Lord confirm that between 1979 and 1983 some 70,900 small businesses were either made bankrupt or went into liquidation, and that many of those 20,000 new businesses to which he referred were among those bankruptcies and liquidations?

Lord Belstead

My Lords, if we are going to talk about the legacy of the previous Government, I will admit to the House, quite openly and frankly, that there were very great difficulties in this country in 1979. But I have to repeat to the House that between 1980 and 1982 there was a net increase in the number of small businesses.

Back to