HC Deb 26 July 1993 vol 229 cc710-2W
Mr. David Shaw

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment 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. Gummer

The Government continue to help small businesses, through improvements to the business climate, through deregulation and through specific programmes of support and assistance.

My Department's Energy Efficiency Office launched the energy management assistance scheme in April 1992 to help smaller businesses reduce their energy costs. The scheme provides grants towards consultants' costs in identifying energy savings and helping in their achievement. Over the last 12 months, more than 1,500 grants, averaging about £400 each, have been paid to small manufacturing and commercial enterprises.

In partnership with the Department of Trade and Industry, my Department is funding a programme to raise awareness of environmental issues among small firms to help them improve their environmental performance. This follows a recommendation made by the Advisory Committee on Business and the Environment. We are jointly supporting 10 local initiatives, which bring together the private sector, the community and local authorities. My Department is supporting projects in Sheffield and Blackburn; a further three will be announced in due course. The programme will also focus on specific industrial sectors, working with trade associations to develop a programme of help and guidance for small businesses.

We continue to review the impact of the integrated pollution control and local authority air pollution control systems on small businesses. This has resulted in the laying of new regulations, the publication of a consultation paper reviewing the scope of the controls, and the issue of guidance to local authorities on exempting certain small industrial processes. Further proposed deregulatory initiatives in relation to the operation of both systems will be of benefit to small businesses.

In November 1992, my Department published planning policy guidance note No. 4, "Industrial and Commercial Development and Small Firms". This includes a section on how local planning authorities can help small firms through the planning system.

The Planning Inspectorate executive agency continues successfully to work to performance targets for prompt handling of planning appeals, including those for small businesses.

For small firms in the construction industry, we ask for information on a sampling basis to minimise the burden of form filling. We give feedback to small firms on the use of raw data provided to us to indicate the cyclical nature of the construction industry. On research, we encourage better dissemination of results on the construction industry to make it user friendly for smaller firms.

We continue to tackle bureaucracy in the main inner-city programmes. City challenge has been simplified and grant regimes reduced from seven to three. The application form for derelict land grant has been simplified and we have taken through the legislation to set up the urban regeneration agency which will integrate three separate programmes in to a single grant regime.

My Department monitors all its programmes and publishes details of a wide range of outputs and targets in its annual report.