HC Deb 26 May 2004 vol 421 cc1675-6W
Mr. Stephen O'Brien

To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what proportion of the Commission for Equality and Human Rights' budget will be spent on financial grants to supporting organisations; and what framework is in place to choose these organisations. [175152]

Ms Hewitt

Funding for the proposed Commission for Equality and Human Rights is still under discussion and is subject to the Government process for financial planning for the next three years.

However, our White Paper, "Fairness for All" has given a commitment to maintain levels of grant funding for local equality work for the foreseeable future.

The Commission will be subject to the same government accounting framework as other non-departmental public bodies, including those processes for making grants.

Mr. Stephen O'Brien

To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what measures will be taken to ensure effective liaison between existing advisers to small businesses and the Commission for Equality and Human Rights. [175154]

Ms Hewitt

The Commission for Equality and Human Rights will provide the opportunity to achieve the more joined-up approach to equality and human rights that business, and especially small business, has called for strongly.

The White Paper, "Fairness for All", makes clear that it will be essential for the CEHR to respond to the specific needs of small businesses and liaise effectively with small business advisers. In developing these effective measures, the CEHR will consult and work closely with small business on all key areas of its work to recognise and address their specific needs.

Evidence shows that small businesses' information needs are often different from those of large organisations, which centre on basic information on compliance and legal obligations. Many small businesses prefer to seek this advice from their existing advisers.

The CEHR's services will need to support these advisers and intermediaries and enable the provision of joined-up information that small business wants.

The CEHR will respond to the preferred ways of working of small business. It will be expected to work with and through other existing bodies such as regional development agencies, the Small Business Service, business representative organisations and sector-based professional bodies.

The Government will continue to express their strong commitment to ensuring liaison between existing small business advisers and the CEHR throughout the White Paper consultation period and beyond.

We are especially grateful to Lorraine Gradwell of the Small Business Council for her work as a member of the Commission for Equality and Human Rights Task Force and her support for promoting the interests of small business.