HC Deb 17 October 1994 vol 248 cc70-1W
Mr. David Shaw

To ask the Secretary of State for Employment 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; if he will publish the performance indicators by which his Department monitors those achievements and the statistical results of such monitoring; and if he will set out his targets to help small businesses in the next year.

Mr. Paice

The Government recognise the crucial role played by small firms in the United Kingdom economy. The Government help small firms by keeping inflation and interest rates low and by reducing legislation and administrative burdens. They also provide direct assistance where appropriate and are currently establishing a network of business links to provide high-quality business support across the country.

The Department funds training and enterprise councils to improve the performance of small businesses by increasing their understanding of the business case for training their people. TECs are increasingly linking this support to the achievement of the investors in people standard. Materials are available to help small firms achieve the standard.

A year ago there were 200 organisations with fewer than 200 employees which had reached the investors in people standard—this included just over 100 with fewer than 50 employees. The most recent information shows that there are 694 organisations with fewer than 200 employees recognised as investors in people—of which 406 have under 50 employees. There are also over 7,200 organisations with fewer than 200 employees which have made a formal commitment to achieving the standard: over 4,600 of these have fewer than 50 employees.

The small firms training loans scheme was launched on 16 June 1994. Three thousand loans are forecast this year. The White Paper on competitiveness announced a new measure to build, over a three-year period from April 1995, a cadre of 24,000 key workers in small firms with up-to-date skills to train others in their firms and to help spread the training culture more widely.

Funds for the business start-up scheme have been transferred to the single regeneration budget in 1994–95. It is expected that some 25,000 people will be helped in 1994–95. Around 34,000 people were awarded an allowance in England in 1993–94. The most recent survey of scheme entrants 18 months after start-up shows that approximately 71 per cent. were still operating their business.