HL Deb 18 October 2000 vol 617 cc94-9WA
The Earl of Northesk

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether, in the light of the recent MORI survey conducted for Compaq, they consider that their delivery of advice to small and medium-sized enterprises, via initiatives such as the Information Society Initiative Programme for Business and the Small Business Service, is performing adequately. [HL3913]

The Minister for Science, Department of Trade and Industry (Lord Sainsbury of Turville)

The Government are committed to ensuring that all small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) have access to world-class business support and advice.

I am satisfied that timely, good quality business advice is already being made available through the network of Business Links. The establishment of the Small Business Service and the launch of a new network from April 2001 will see further improvements via a single gateway to a comprehensive network of business support organisations, initiatives and information from the public, private and voluntary sectors, making extensive use of Internet and call centre technology.

Five thousand, three hundred and eighty-five businesses were assisted by UK Online for Business Advisers (formerly Information Society Initiative Centres) between April and June 2000, according to SBS Performance Information figures for that quarter. The recently published International Benchmarking Study 2000, Business in the Information Age, found that in the UK, 81 per cent of businesses are now online, compared with 63 per cent last year. The Government's target of having 1.5 million SMEs wired up to the digital marketplace by 2002 has been exceeded, with 1.7 million SMEs already connected.