HC Deb 30 March 2000 vol 347 cc241-2W
Mr. Healey

To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what steps he is taking to encourage the growth of enterprise in areas of high unemployment. [115691]

Mr. Caborn

The Government recognise the need to encourage the growth of enterprise in disadvantaged areas such as those with high unemployment.

One of the Policy Action Teams set up by the Social Exclusion Unit was asked to look at the role of 'Enterprise and Social Exclusion'. It reported in November 1999.

The report made several recommendations for the Government's new Small Business Service (SBS). A key role for the SBS will be to identify those people who face specific barriers to entrepreneurship, for example some ethnic minorities and those in disadvantaged communities and to ensure that business support is tailored to meet their needs.

At the local level there will be a new network of SBS franchises which will replace the Business Links network. The Government's SBS franchise bidding guidance has set out a clear message to the potential franchisees to demonstrate how they will deliver their services to those in deprived communities and other under-represented groups.

The SBS has established a new social inclusion team to take these issues forward and in all aspects of this work, the SBS will build on the excellent work that is already going on at the local level. It will identify good practice and ensure that it is shared widely.

Another area of assistance is Enterprise Grants. These are available to SMEs in the 'Assisted Areas' and in additional areas of identified special need, including local authorities with high unemployment or low employment rates.

In addition, the Phoenix Fund was announced by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry in November 1999 to take forward specific activities in deprived areas. The fund will have a budget of £30 million over three years. The Fund will support entrepreneurship in deprived areas and will respond to issues raised in the PAT 3 report. It will provide funding for:

  • piloting of the new Business Volunteers Mentor Association;
  • support for new and existing community finance initiatives;
  • a development fund for innovative ways of supporting enterprise in deprived areas.

The Department is currently considering ways of developing the fund for the benefit of business.

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