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Small Businesses (Assistance)

Volume 12: debated on Wednesday 11 November 1981

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3.

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if he is satisfied that the assistance provided by his Department to small businesses in Scotland has proved adequate.

Yes, Sir. Financial assistance is provided for viable investments in firms large and small. In addition, we have considerably extended the range of incentives available to small businesses and we have launched the business opportunities programme specifically to draw attention to these measures.

Will the Under-Secretary of State look at the uptake of the loan guarantee scheme in Scotland? Will he confess that the 3 per cent. premium charged on this scheme is in no way justified by any consideration of default in terms of the warrant? Additionally, will he note that the best bank to approach for a loan is the Co-operative Bank? Will he welcome the expansion of these activities in Edinburgh?

On the last point, I agree. The Co-operative Bank is included in the scheme for small businesses. I am pleased with the progress so far of the loan guarantee scheme. In the past few months 104 guarantees, to the value of £3 million, were issued in Scotland. That is very satisfactory beginning.

In view of the great importance of stimulating small businesses to reduce unemployment, does my hon. Friend think that the incentives are sufficient? What has been the general take-up since my right hon. and learned Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer announced new incentives in the summer?

My hon. Friend will know that, since the Government took office, 72 specific measures have been introduced to help small businesses throughout the country. The take-up is encouraging. The response to the business opportunities seminars that my right hon. Friend and I are holding throughout the country is most encouraging.

If the Government are to hive off certain bits and pieces of the nationalised industries, will they bear in mind that Scotland has an interest in this matter—for instance, in the oil of the BNOC? Will he ensure that workers and managers in Scotland are given an opportunity, where suitable, to set up their own small businesses in the pieces of the nationalised industries that are to be hived off?

I agree with the right hon. Gentleman. He will know that British Aerospace workers in Scotland have recently had an opportunity to take a share in that company's future.

Will my hon. Friend ensure that all the assistance that is being offered to businesses is made simple and effective? One of the problems related to this matter is the difficulty that is sometimes encountered in obtaining assistance. Will he link that to the fact that United Biscuits, BAT and other large companies are offering assistance to small businesses setting up by providing accommodation, premises and advice? Will he ensure that that aspect is fully exploited?

Yes, Sir. I agree that the assistance available should be expressed as simply as possible. I also agree that the assistance and encouragement provided by large companies and by some of the nationalised industries, such as the BSC, is extremely helpful to the small business sector.