§ Mr. David Shaw
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport if he will make a statement on the achievements of(a) his policies and (b) his Department in helping small businesses over the last 12 months as against 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. Freeman
Overall responsibility for helping small businesses rests with the Department of Employment. The Government have continued to place a high priority on helping small businesses, through improvements to the business climate, through deregulation and other measures, and through specific programmes of support and assistance. The success of their policies is demonstrated by the latest statistics, which show a record increase in the number of businesses registered for VAT of 1,700 a week during 1989. Over the decade the overall increase has been 373,000.
The policies of the Department of Transport are concerned to ensure that transport infrastructure is adequate and to lift the burden on businesses caused by unnecessary regulation so that all businesses can flourish.
Much progress has been made on commitments made in the November 1988 White Paper, "Releasing Enterprise", including the change to the heavy goods vehicle plating and testing threshold that the Secretary of State announced at the time of the Budget statement. This change means more sensible rules for business to comply with and understand in a sector of the vehicle market which is expected to expand, and will bring up to 200,000 light goods vehicles out of the HGV plating and testing scheme and into the less costly MOT scheme. This will be of considerable benefit to small businesses using light goods vehicles.
The Department is also at the forefront of the initiative to create executive agencies. The vehicle inspectorate executive agency was created on 1 August 1988, becoming 143W the very first executive agency in Government. On 2 April 1990, three more executive arms of the DTp attained agency status—the vehicle certification agency, the driving standards agency and the driver and vehicle licensing agency. All the agencies share the common objective of improving customer service while providing good value for money. Individual agencies publicise financial and service quality targets in their annual business plans.
Departmental procurement procedures also encourage the use of small firms. The Department procurement unit encourages small firms to supply the Department—mainly through the pamphlet, "Selling to the Department of Transport" but also by attending "meet the buyer" events. Approximately 1,000 copies of the pamphlet have been issued since the beginning of February.