§ Mr. Neil Turner
To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry (1) how many businesses have started up in Wigan since 1997; 
(2) how many new businesses have been established in Wigan since 1997. 
§ Nigel Griffiths
Barclays Bank's latest survey of business creation includes non-VAT registered firms and shows that there were 115,000 business start-ups in England and Wales, including 500 in Wigan Local Authority (which contains the constituency of Wigan), in the fourth quarter of 2003. The latest yearly figures show 465,000 business start-ups in England and Wales in 2003. This represents a 19 per cent. increase on the year before. There were 1,900 business start-ups in Wigan Local Authority in 2003. Data for Local Authorities are not available for before 2003.76W
DTI figures based solely on VAT registrations for Wigan Local Authority (which includes the constituency of Wigan) are shown below for the period 1997 to 2002. Data for 2003 will be available in Autumn 2004.
VAT Registrations: 1997–2002 1997 1998 1999 2000 2001 2002 Wigan 640 635 620 670 580 630 Source: Business Start-ups and Closures: VAT Registrations and de-registrations 1994–2002, Small Business Service
§ Nigel Griffiths
Enterprise Grants of more than £391,000 and Research and Development Grants of more than £587,000 have been awarded to SME's in Sittingbourne and Sheppey since 1997. In addition, an application for a Freight Facilities grant (to enable businesses to transport their goods by means other than by road) resulted in a company receiving more that £403,000.
The total number of businesses in Swale is currently 3,828. Penetration of the business population by Business Link Kent has increased fourfold since 1997. The number of unique businesses that have been assisted by the Business Link has risen from 9 per cent. in 1997–98 to 36 per cent. in 2003–04.
Around 60 businesses have been recognised and 52 committed to Investors in People (KP) during the period as a result of an intervention with Business Link Kent.
In the past two years, a number of specific European funded programmes have significantly assisted 28 companies in Sittingbourne and Sheppey by providing Mentors who have undertaken various projects in the companies to enable them to develop their business.
Women Entrepreneurs in Swale were targeted in a programme during 2001–02, 128 women attended and 26 new businesses started as a result.