HC Deb 24 July 1996 vol 282 cc586-7W
Mr. David Shaw

To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security if he will make a statement on the impact of(a) his policies and (b) the work of his Department in helping small businesses in the last 12 months as against the previous 12 months; and if he will publish the performance indicators by which his Department monitors the impact and the statistical results of such monitoring. [39144]

Mr. Heald

The Government recognise the crucial role played by small firms in the UK economy and aim to help them by providing sound economic conditions—keeping inflation and interest rates low; reducing legislative, administrative and taxation burdens; and where appropriate provide direct assistance in the form of specialist advice and support and easing access to finance.

The reductions we have made to the lower rates of employers' national insurance contributions have helped to keep down the non-wage costs of UK businesses, including small business, and they are now among the lowest in Europe. The introduction of the employers' national insurance contribution "holiday" from April 1996 offers small businesses a further opportunity to reduce their non-wage costs. With the Inland Revenue, we have an on-going joint working programme to reduce the burdens on businesses of operating pay-as-you-earn and national insurance contributions. Successes of the programme so far include the piloting of a new employers telephone helpline and annual pack, and the provision of a joint application form to pay self-employed national insurance and tax for newly self-employed people.

We have also contributed to the Government's core deregulation initiatives by substantially reducing the number of forms sent to business and by revoking or amending regulations to reduce the burdens on business in areas such as statutory sick pay and statutory maternity pay.

We have targets for the current year of reducing forms sent to businesses by 20 per cent. and surveys, which businesses and local authorities are asked to take part in, by 2 per cent.