HC Deb 23 March 1979 vol 964 c797W
Mr. Paul Dean

asked the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster whether he will make a statement about the Wilson committee interim report relating to the financing of small firms.

Mr. Lever

I welcome this report for the positive and encouraging attitude implied in all its proposals. It provides a careful analysis of the financing problems of small firms. Most of the committee's recommendations are designed to improve the facilities available to small firms from both public and private sources and to improve access to them.

In the case of some of the recommendations, relating to improvements in existing public sources, action on the lines proposed is already being taken. Five of the recommendations relate primarily to the private sector, and will no doubt be pursued by the institutions concerned. Two of the remaining proposals relate to the marketing of shares in small firms and the committee's suggestion for more detailed study of possible changes will be followed up.

Finally, there are three suggestions for substantial innovations which will require close examination—these are the proposals for small firm investment companies, an English development agency and a publicly financed loan guarantee scheme. It is too soon to comment in detail on these ideas. But we certainly want to find new ways of encouraging both private equity investment in small firms, including institutional investment, and improved access to loan finance—especially for firms just starting up or specialising in new technology. The committee has identified these needs, and we will want to consider both its proposals and other possibilities in the light of its report.