§ Mr. Stephen O'Brien
To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if she will make a statement on the progress her Department has made towards meeting the Spending Review 2002 targets(a) to increase the number of people considering going into business and (b) to improve the overall productivity of small firms. 
§ 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 1683W England and Wales in the last 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.
Data from the Office for National Statistics' Annual Business Inquiry shows that during the period 1999 to 2001, the productivity (gross value added per employee) of small firms (those with fewer than 250 employees) has risen at a faster rate every year than the productivity of all firms in the UK. In 1999, SMEs were 93 per cent. as productive as large firms, and by 2001, they were 96 per cent. as productive. The latest figures show that SMEs' productivity increased by 5.9 per cent. (basic prices) between 2000 and 2001, while all firms' productivity increased by 4.5 per cent. (basic prices).
Progress against the targets set in 2002 was published on 28 April 2004 in the 2004 DTI Departmental Report.