asked the Secretary of State for Industry what contribution the Government's measures to encourage small businesses will make to the economic revival of inner cities.
The Government are pursuing a number of policies designed to help small firms, wherever they may be located. Special assistance is available in certain inner city areas through local authorities under the urban programme.
I am grateful to my hon. Friend for that reply. Will he tell the House what has happened to the proposal for enterprise zones in which bureaucracy and red tape were to be cut to a minimum and the enterprising people were to be able to devote all their energies to being enterprising?
The matter of specific enterprise zones is still under study. So far as the general concept is concerned, we wish to convert the whole country into one.
Has the hon. Gentleman examined the success of the Industrial Co-ownership Organisation and the Cooperative Development Agency? Is there anything that he can do to help his hon. Friend the Member for Ealing, Acton (Sir G. Young) and myself, who are trying to recreate the inner city industrial area of Park Roy al in my constituency and his by encouraging small business development on the principle of those two bodies?
The Government are continuing to give the co-operative development authority assistance. If the hon. Gentleman has a specific constituency interest, I should be happy to hear from him on it.
In recognition of the importance of small businesses in the regeneration of our inner city areas, is my hon. Friend prepared to consult with his colleagues in the Department of the Environment to see if it is possible to abolish the rate charges on empty properties in these areas? They are a significant hindrance to attracting business in those areas.
l shall draw my hon. Friend's suggestion to the attention of my colleagues in the Department of the Environment.
Are not all these matters peripheral to the real difficulties that are facing small businesses, which are highly over-valued sterling, a minimum lending rate of 17 per cent. and VAT at 15 per cent.—all conscious decisions of this Government?
The level of sterling is not a conscious decision of the Government but is a matter of the operation of market forces. The MLR is a consequence of the over-high Government spending programmes which we inherited from our predecessors.