HC Deb 10 March 1993 vol 220 cc579-80W
Mr. Booth

To ask the President of the Board of Trade if he will make a statement about the future of consultancy services offered by his Department.

Mr. Heseltine

I am pleased to announce that my Department will be working with the training and enterprise councils and pilot one-stop shops to develop and trial a package of business advisory services which will build on and ultimately succeed the very successful DTI enterprise initiative consultancy scheme.

Businesses are not homogeneous. Strengths and weaknesses vary between individual firms. Their problems do not remain static. Rather they change as the firms and the markets in which they operate evolve.

In considering DTI's own business services I have, therefore, decided that we should begin to move away from the idea of rigid, narrowly defined national schemes towards a more flexible system responsive to consumer needs and delivered locally.

The new package of support will include a new diagnostic service, a consultancy brokerage service, continuation in some form of consultancy support and technology-related advice.

To provide for the development of this new package of services, I am revising the rate of subsidy paid by my Department under the existing enterprise initiative consultancy scheme.

At present the DTI meets two thirds of the cost of consultancy in assisted areas and urban programme areas and half the cost elsewhere. These rates will be reduced to one half the cost in assisted areas and one third elsewhere. The revised rates will apply for all applications received after 4 pm on Wednesday 24 March 1993.

The scheme will continue until 31 March 1994 as originally scheduled.

Beyond that I am convinced that consultancy support will have a continuing role to play. The new flexible package will enable it to continue beyond the previously designated closure date of the consultancy scheme.

The new services will be developed, trialed arid introduced alongside the consultancy scheme to ensure a smooth transition to the new arrangements.

I am convinced that the comprehensive range of local services outlined in these proposals, contracted through TECs and delivered through the one-stop shops where they exist and through TECs elsewhere, will provide high-quality support for business. It will not only provide support suited to business needs; it will also make cost effective use of public funds.

In doing so it will enable the Department to assist a larger number of firms than at present while enabling them to choose from a wider variety of support services which meet their needs.

Ms Estelle Morris

To ask the President of the Board of Trade how much of the surplus in the Post Office superannuation fund can be attributed to(a) the Royal Mail, (b) Post Office Counters and (c) Parcelforce.

Mr. Leigh

[holding answer 5 March 1993]: The Post Office has two pension schemes: the Post Office staff superannuation scheme, which all staff who were employed before 1 April 1987 were eligible to join, and the Post Office pension scheme which is open to all staff who have joined the Post Office since 1 April 1987. Both these schemes are Post Office-wide schemes, and there has never been any attribution of any part of their surpluses to any of the constituent businesses of the Post Office. This information is therefore not available.