HC Deb 26 July 1990 vol 177 cc411-2W
Mr. David Shaw

To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry 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. Douglas Hogg

[holding answer 24 July 1990]: My Department continues to contribute to the Government's policy of creating a climate in which smaller businesses flourish.

The enterprise initiative was launched in January 1988 to encourage the process of wealth creation through individual initiative and enterprise. It brings together a range of services provided by DTI for industry and commerce, many of which are concerned with improving the competitiveness of smaller firms. The six consultancy initiatives, for example, offer financial support to small and medium-sized firms for between five and 15 days of consultancy in the following key management areas: design; marketing; manufacturing systems; quality; business planning; and financial and information systems. By 30 June 1990, 54,700 applications had been received, 49,000 initial business reviews undertaken and 23,700 assisted consultancy projects completed or under way.

Regional enterprise grants are aimed specifically at small businesses in the development areas and South Yorkshire employing fewer than 25 people and are designed to support their investment and innovation projects. In 1989–90, 2,123 applications were received and 1,540 offers were made with a total value of £12.0 million.

The small firms merit award for research and technology is an annual competition which provides cash awards to firms with fewer than 50 employees in order to bring forward innovative technological projects of particular promise. In 1989, 150 awards came from 828 applications.

Refinements over the last year of the services offered to exporters will assist smaller companies realise their export potential. The active exporting scheme operated by chambers of commerce with DTI pump-priming funding is aimed at companies with a turnover of £1 million to £10 million per annum. In their first full-year, the 32 export development advisers gave advice to more than 2,600 small and medium-sized companies, of which about 1,000 are now exporting, or seriously considering exporting.

In addition, help with smaller firms is a high priority of my Department's single market campaign. The range of single market material includes an action guide specifically designed for smaller firms, to whom over 286,000 copies of the action guide have been dispatched direct, in addition to the more than 400,000 copies originally mailed or included in publications covering the small firms sector. The current phase of the campaign draws attention to the many sources of expertise, such as trade associations and chambers of commerce, that can provide relevant information and advice to help smaller firms prepare for the single market.

It is also worth noting that, in 1989–90, the inner cities initiative task forces supported projects that are expected to give support to 3,584 new and existing businesses, the majority of which are small ones.

The Government's deregulation initiative, co-ordinated by the DTI, takes particular account of the problems with regulation faced by small firms.

It would be prohibitively expensive to set out all the performance measures that are collected as part of the Department's wide-ranging and professional evaluation programme, which is designed to ensure that the Department's programmes secure good value for money.