HC Deb 24 July 1996 vol 282 cc622-3W
Mr. David Shaw

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department 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 past 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. [39149]

Mr. Howard

The Government recognise the crucial role played by small firms in the United Kingdom 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.

Over the past year, my Department has shown its continued commitment to helping small businesses by taking further forward its wide-ranging programme of deregulation. Measures which have come into effect in this period include; the Licensing (Sunday Hours) Act 1995, which abolished the compulsory Sunday afternoon break for on-licensed premises and registered clubs and, subject to the restrictions on shop opening hours in the Sunday Trading Act 1994, permits off-licensees to sell alcohol from 10 am until 10.30 pm on Sundays; an order to relax certain controls on greyhound racing; an order introducing provisional special hours certificates for licensed premises and reinstating the hour lost to nightclubs at the start of summer time; an order to repeal the "long pull" offence of serving over-measures of alcohol; and an order to amend the law on gaming machines and betting office facilities to provide for, among other things, £10 all cash amusement-with-prizes machines and more jackpot machines in permitted premises.

In addition, draft deregulation orders have been laid which will allow 16 and 17-year-olds on approved training schemes to work in the bars of licensed premises and extend betting office licences and bookmakers' permits to three years.

In May we announced the Government's decisions on the fire safety scrutiny and issued a consultation document containing draft regulations to implement the outstanding fire safety aspects of the European Community framework and workplace directives. The aims of our work on fire safety have been to maintain necessary fire standards and to meet our EC obligations in a way which minimises burdens on business.

Many of the deregulatory measures which were given effect this year by the Home Office were started in the previous 12 months; the achievements of that period were given in my reply of 19 July 1995 to my hon. Friend.

Since the beginning of the deregulation programme, 13 of the 38 Home Office regulations which impact on business have so far been repealed or amended.

Further candidates for deregulation are under active consideration.

Small businesses also continue to benefit from Home Office action on crime prevention. Our programme of introducing closed circuit television across the country is progressing well. On 21 June, I announced the results of the second CCTV challenge competition: 259 winning bidders are sharing the prize fund of over £17 million, in amounts ranging from £3,000 to £250,000. On the same day, I announced a further challenge competition, with £15 million available, for 1997–98. Many small businesses have benefited from reductions in crime following the introduction of CCTV cameras in their areas. Crime prevention guides for small retailers have been widely distributed to all business link shops and a large number of retail organisations.

The Home Office and its agencies have signed the CBI's prompt payment code outlining good practice in handling payments. We are committed to improving our performance, and particularly recognise the impact of late payment on small suppliers. We have recently appointed a small business adviser and issued a new guidance booklet for suppliers which contains information on prompt payment, including a direct contact point for late payment complaints. It also includes information on business links and opportunities for small firms.