HC Deb 09 May 2002 vol 385 cc280-1W
Mr. Wray

To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what assistance the Government have provided since 1997 to small businesses starting up. [54193]

Nigel Griffiths

Creating new businesses is important to achieving a vibrant economy. The Government are committed to creating an environment that encourages more people to think about setting up a business, and to provide them with easy access to the information and support available that will help them to be successful and grow. Since 1997 the Government have introduced through the Small Business Service (SBS) a range of measures to assist small businesses to start up includingAt the heart of the SBS is the Information and Advisory Service, which provides start-ups and other small businesses with access to information and advice on a wide range of business topics. This is focused at a local level through the SBS's business link operators (BLOs), which provide tailored high quality business support to meet the needs of all small businesses in their areas. Each BLO is required to provide a local service for pre start-ups and start-ups brokering specific help when appropriate from local partners; People thinking of starting in business or who are already trading have easy access to information about all aspects of starting and running a business from the business link website (www.businesslink.org) and National Contact Centre (0845 600 9006). The Business Volunteer Mentoring (BVMA initiative) provides mentoring advice to pre and early start-up businesses from a core of volunteers (retired or otherwise) drawn from all sections of the business community. With support from the SBS, the National Federation of Enterprise Agencies, is overseeing the co-ordination of the initiative for delivery at local level through local enterprise agencies and other business link local partners. There are currently approximately 900 volunteers operating within the BVMA initiative. High Growth Start-up (HGSUs)—a high-quality advice service to pre-start and start-up businesses in England who are identified as having high growth potential. The service is part of the start-ups services delivered locally via business link operators in England. Support is being provided, across a variety of business sectors, to people who are traditionally considered to face barriers in starting and growing a business including women, ethnic minorities and young entrepreneurs. Around 7,000 pre and early start businesses have been assisted since October 1999. The £75 million SBS Business Incubation Fund opened for business on 1 October 2001; the fund is providing loans to developers of business incubators to help those starting up in business and early stage SMEs to survive and grow. 96 projects supported by £30 million from the Development Fund element of the Phoenix Fund, bringing enterprise projects to disadvantaged areas and groups.

However the Government are committed to continue finding ways of increasing the numbers of new businesses, and of helping them to be successful and grow. In response to the joint Treasury/DTI paper "Productivity in the UK", which was published on 16 June 2001, the SBS is currently consulting on developing a comprehensive strategy for supporting business start-ups. A consultation document was published on 6 May 2002, setting out some concrete proposals and recommendations for areas where further work is considered necessary. The consultation period will run until 31 July 2002.