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Community Enterprise Trusts (Small Businesses)

Volume 12: debated on Monday 9 November 1981

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asked the Secretary of State for Industry if he has any information on the number of community enterprise trusts to assist small businesses that have been formed in the United Kingdom.

As these organisations spring entirely from the community, we have no means of knowing the precise number. But there are at least 50 already in being or in the process of being set up in the country, many of them of very recent origin. I greatly welcome these developments, because I am confident that they are very helpful to small businesses.

I thank my hon. Friend for that helpful reply. Am I right in believing that the Government would welcome the formation of many more of these community trusts? Can my hon. Friend be a little more specific about what the Government are doing to encourage them?

I am grateful to my hon. Friend and I pay tribute to the work that he has done in his own constituency in spearheading and being very much responsible for the setting up of an enterprise trust there. I have visited many of these, and I have taken part in conferences on the subject. My hon. Friend will also know that the organisation Business in the Community has been set up to encourage more of them to be established around the country. Beyond the general welcome that the Government give and the general assistance that, for example, our own small firms service can give to them, I think that there is a limit, because these are essentially examples of local initiative and local self-help. They will wish to remain that way and their benefits stem from that. However, I shall certainly be happy to do anything that I can to assist them in general.

What impression has the formation of these trusts had on the amazingly high rate of bankruptcies among small businesses that have been caused by the Government's policies?

To use the hon. Gentleman's expression, which I do not think is particularly appropriate, it is worth noting that an amazingly high number of new small businesses are being set up at this moment, certainly a great deal more than the number of bankruptcies. That is well worth bearing in mind. The enterprise trusts are helping them to be set up and are assisting those that are growing.