HC Deb 10 May 2004 vol 421 cc91-2W
Mr. Bellingham

To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what steps her Department is taking to protect small businesses from late payments. [168905]

Nigel Griffiths

This Government has done more than any other to specifically address the problem of late payment. We introduced the Late Payment of Commercial Debts (Interest) Act 1998 which allows small businesses to claim interest and debt recovery costs on late paid invoices and also gives representative organisations the right to challenge unfair contract terms on behalf of SMEs.

The Government helped to create the Better Payment Practice Group (BPPG) a cooperative forum of Industry associations and Government that seeks to improve the payment culture in the UK. The BPPG provides a range of information and advice to all businesses, its website www.payontime.co.uk includes a guide to using the legislation as well as other tools.

A recent survey by the REL Consultancy Group looked at average days payable outstanding (DPO) and concluded that UK companies' payment performance is 33.6 days against 42.4 days for Europe as a whole, whilst countries such as Italy (67.9) and France (63.4) perform considerably less well.

Mr. Meacher

To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what steps the Government has taken to help small businesses in Oldham West and Royton since 1997. [1709351

Nigel Griffiths

The Business Link Operator for North Manchester has provided assistance to 887 businesses in the Oldham West and Royton constituency since 2001. The Small Business Service was set up as an agency of the Department of Trade and Industry in April 2000. Contracts were exchanged with a national network of 45 Businesses Link operators (seven in the North West) to provide Business Support to small and medium sized enterprises from April 2001. Before this date Government Support to businesses was provided through Training and Enterprise Councils and the SBS does not have access to this data.

The 887 companies have received assistance on Business Finance, Environmental, E-Services, High Growth, International, Innovation Technology and Design, Micro Support, Supply Chain, and Workforce Development and other Account Management assistance.

Eight companies have received offers of grant from the Research and Development Grant scheme with a total value of £195,000.

Mr. Hendrick

To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry (1) how many new businesses have been established in Preston since 1997; [169672]

(2) how many new businesses have started up in Preston since 1997. [169678]

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 2,600 in Lancashire County (which contains the constituency of Preston), 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 10,200 business start-ups in Lancashire County in 2003. Data for counties are not available for before 2003.

DTI figures based solely on VAT registrations for Preston local authority and South Ribble local authority (parts of both include the constituency of Preston) are shown in the table 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
Preston 465 420 410 395 365 345
South Ribble 275 300 255 280 240 250
Business Start-ups and Closures: VAT Registrations and De-registrations 1994–2002, Small Business Service

VAT registrations do not capture all start-up activity. Businesses are unlikely to be registered if they fall below the compulsory VAT threshold, which has risen in each year since 1997. Similarly, businesses that de-register will not necessarily have closed. Only 1.8 million out of 3.8 million enterprises were registered for VAT at the start of 2002.