HL Deb 21 May 1985 vol 464 cc160-1

2.56 p.m.

Lord Orr-Ewing

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 what further action is being taken to help small businesses understand the management and financial implication of applying new technologies to manufacturing processes.

Lord Brabazon of Tara

My Lords, the Department of Trade and Industry is joining with Barclays Bank and PA Technology to present a series of seminars in all parts of the country, helping small firms to understand these issues. The department also provides extensive business and technical advisory services for small firms, and has recently published a new booklet summarising the support we give and the grants available to innovate export and invest.

Lord Orr-Ewing

My Lords, whilst thanking my noble friend for that good news, may I ask whether he can say how many small firms have taken advantage of this service? What is the charge made to these firms? During the last year, how many inquiries in this area have the Department of Trade and Industry received from small firms?

Lord Brabazon of Tara

My Lords, during the last year the department received approximately 270,000 inquiries and arranged 35,000 counselling sessions. Of these counselling sessions the first three are free; after that they are £30 per session.

Lord Bruce of Donington

My Lords, is the noble Lord aware that the services referred to in the Question are available in the Greater London Enterprise Board and also in the various metropolitan enterprise boards where they have fully technically qualified staff to deal with these matters, where the services are free, and of which many firms up and down the country have taken advantage in the last year or so?

Lord Brabazon of Tara

My Lords, that may well be so, in which case I should say that this was an example of duplication, and another reason to abolish the GLC and the metropolitan counties.

Lord Molloy

My Lords, is the noble Lord really serious in what he has just said? Does he find it humorous that we have a record of bankruptcies among small firms? Is he aware that it is the endeavours of the organisations listed by my noble friend Lord Bruce of Donington which have saved many small businessmen from going down the Tory road to bankruptcy? Is the noble Lord aware that therefore these organisations should be given more assistance? If the Government really believe in small enterprises thriving in Great Britain, why do they not stop this ridiculous business of abolishing the great authorities that are helping them so much?

Lord Brabazon of Tara

My Lords, I should say that while bankruptcies among small firms are running at a fairly high level, so, too, are new firms starting up; in fact, they are, I think, at a record level.