HC Deb 19 December 2001 vol 377 cc467-8W
Adam Price

To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what action she is taking(a) to promote female entrepreneurs and (b) to create an enterprise environment that supports both men and women. [23973]

Ms Hewitt

The Government's priority on coming to office in 1997 was economic stability and employment. The economic challenge for the second term is enterprise and productivity.

The Government are promoting enterprise through: stable macroeconomic conditions, sound public finances and low inflation improving the tax regime, by introducing new measures to help small businesses grow, including simplifying VAT for half a million small firms and extension of the 10p corporation tax rate radical rethink of the UK competition regime.

The Small Business Service (SBS) aims to build an enterprise society in which small businesses of all kinds thrive and achieve their potential. Last year it published "Think Small First"—a national strategy to create the right environment for SMEs. SBS is holding meetings across Whitehall to ensure all Government Departments consider the impact their actions have on them.

SBS's services are available to both male and female entrepreneurs in England, through the Business Link network, which provides local advice and support to all entrepreneurs on everything needed to start and grow a business. Business Connect delivers a similar service in Wales.

Women who are thinking of setting up or who are already running their own businesses are able to make use of the full range of services provided by SBS through the Business Link operators.

In addition, SBS has set up the Phoenix Fund to encourage entrepreneurship in disadvantaged areas and within groups which are currently under-represented in terms of business ownership (including women). The Phoenix Fund as a whole is worth £100 million over the four financial years from 2000–04. 16 projects specifically target the needs of women. The National Assembly for Wales has a separate budget to promote female entrepreneurs.

The SBS is working to research and better understand the needs of women entrepreneurs and tackle any specific barriers that they may face in starting and running then-own businesses.