§ Mr. David Shaw
To ask the Secretary of State for Health 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. Dorrell
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. It is the policy of the Department and the NHS to provide equal opportunity to all potential suppliers, of whatever size, to trade on a value-for-money basis. This policy continues to underpin all NHS and departmental contracts with external suppliers. To help small businesses a guide on how to do business with the NHS has been published and is currently being reviewed. Two joint CBI/NHS seminars have been held in the past year where it has been emphasised that quality counts more than size of business. In addition, the NHS procurement directorate and NHS supplies departments respond to a large number of individual requests for advice and guidance from small businesses that wish to enter the NHS market or have other trading problems they wish to resolve. The NHS deals with several thousand suppliers through over 3,000 delivery points. It is not practicable to monitor centrally the precise extent to which the NHS draws on small businesses but it is estimated that some 80 per cent. of suppliers fall into the small to medium-size category.