§ Mr. David Shaw
To ask the Secretary of State for Energy 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. Wakeham
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.
In developing and implementing my Department's policies, full account is taken of the needs of small businesses. They have benefited from measures to encourage competition and stimulate energy efficiency.
The Coal Industry Act 1990 provides a modest, but significant, measure of liberalisation for the United Kingdom coal market by raising the tonnage limit on licensed—non-British Coal—opencast sites and the manpower limit on licensed deep mines. The Government have continued to make available funding for British Coal Enterprise Ltd. resulting in a cumulative total of 61,000 job opportunities, many of which are in small businesses, in 2,865 individual projects—this compares with 41,041 and 2,600 respectively in 1989.
The new regime for the electricity supply industry will have the effect of opening up the supply of electricity to competition, will give small businesses a choice of electricity supplier and put downward pressure on the prices they pay.
Officials are encouraged to use small firms for departmental purchases of goods and services where this is consistent with obtaining value for money. About 43 per cent. of purchases have been from them in 1989–90 compared with 38 per cent. in 1988–89. A booklet "Selling to the Department of Energy—a guide to firms wishing to supply the Department with goods and services." has recently been produced and should be of particular benefit to small firms.