HC Deb 19 June 1986 vol 99 cc611-2W
Mr. Bellingham

asked the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if he will make a statement about problems caused by the high level of demand for his Department's business technical advisory services.

Mr. Butcher

[pursuant to his reply, 16 June 1986, c. 373]: The assistance for manufacturing, design and quality assurance consultancy projects offered under the business and technical advisory services has proved a popular and successful element in the Department's support programme. The budget for these services has increased fourfold since 1982 and in 1986–87 is £20 million.

The widening of the eligibility criteria in 1985 to include the very smallest firms and the extension of the assistance to the service sector has led to a substantial increase in demand for the services. The Government remain determined to contain public expenditure and are not, therefore, prepared to increase the budget to satisfy in full this demand. However, I am pleased to announce that a further £2.5 million will be added for 1986–87, increasing the budget to £22.5 million. This additional funding will help ease the present problem of excess demand: it will not solve it entirely. Having taken the advice of my Department's technology transfer advisory services committee, I am therefore introducing the following additional measures to bring demand and supply into better balance and concentrate the assistance on projects likely to prove most worthwhile:

  1. a) to qualify for assistance, consultancy projects must form part of a sound business plan. The benefits expected from the consultancy should be quantifiable, realisable quickly and lead to an increase in international competitiveness;
  2. b) applicants will be entitled to only one consultancy project within each of the three elements of the services. No project should be of less than eight man-days' duration;
  3. c) eligibility will be restricted to independent firms or groups with 1–500 employees;
  4. d) the contribution from the applicant will be increased from 25 per cent. to 33⅓ per cent.

Applications for assistance already under consideration will be dealt with under the existing terms and conditions. From today new applications will be subject to the above terms and conditions.