HC Deb 24 July 1989 vol 157 cc564-5W
Mr. David Shaw

To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security if he will make a statement on the achievements of his Department and his policies in helping small businesses over the last 12 months compared with the previous 12 months; and if he will publish the performance indicators by which his Department monitors those achievements and the statistical results Of such monitoring.

Mr. Moore

The Government's general policy towards small businesses is to create a climate in which they can flourish and to provide measures that support and help stimulate their development. Over the past 12 months my Department has continued to identify ways to help small businesses. Specific measures which have been introduced included:

  1. (i) In February 1989 we issued a new communications package for employers which provided guidance on the collection of national insurance contributions and the payment of statutory sick pay. We enlisted the help of external consultants and in line with their recommendations, the structure and design of the guidance was completely revised. The aim was to make our instructions easier for employers to understand, in particular for the small employer who may have to carry out payroll functions personally. At the end of February 1989, immediately after the dispatch of the new guidance material, a small survey was undertaken to sample initial reactions to the new material. The survey showed that 83 per cent. thought that the updating was a good idea and 69 per cent. agreed that they would be more likely to use the new guides than the old ones. A larger survey is currently under way to examine reactions to the material in use and to seek further improvements. The results are expected by September 1989.
  2. (ii) We have produced a video, specifically aimed at small employers, which outlines the basics of the calculation and payment of statutory sick pay, and which has been available since March 1989. Copies can be obtained from CFL Vision, PO Box 35, Wetherby, Yorkshire, LS23 7EX, price £14.50.
  3. (iii) In October 1988 we embarked on a series of experimental seminars for employers which provided instruction on the administration of statutory sick pay and statutory maternity pay. The pilot seminars were based in Scotland and found to be of value to both small and large employers. We intend to extend the service nationally and are currently selecting the staff to do this.
  4. (iv) We have worked with the Department of Employment in producing a starter pack for the newly self-employed and those who may be contemplating self-employment. The pack, "Working for Yourself: What You Need to Know" became available in July 1989.
  5. (v) We have undertaken a comprehensive review of all the inquiries local and central DSS offices make of business. Implementation of the report's recommendations will result in a lessening of the burden departmental inquiries place on business.

We are continuing to take positive steps to give small firms opportunities to do business with the Department. Local purchasing staff are encouraged to make contact with small firms and they are doing a substantial proportion of their business with them.

As yet we have not designed performance indicators specifically for monitoring achievements in this area, but my Department has a system to monitor proposals which impact on business to ensure the needs of small businesses are fully taken into account. We attach particular importance to action taken to help small firms and will continue to explore further ways of doing so.