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Small Firms (Marketing Advice)

Volume 78: debated on Wednesday 1 May 1985

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asked the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry whether he is satisfied with the level of advice on marketing available from his Department to small firms.

I thank my hon. Friend for his reply. Will he say what he intends to do to assist more firms with their marketing problems?

I am very conscious of the importance of marketing as one of the key elements in running a successful business of any kind. We have a golden opportunity to run a pilot marketing scheme in certain areas as a result of the non-quota ERDF money that is being made available in the steel, shipbuilding and textile areas. We are obviously very anxious to monitor how that marketing scheme is working within the business improvement service package to establish what degree of success has been achieved.

Is the Minister aware that many voluntary bodies have established small businesses, which are helping to create employment, and that they could do a lot more if they were assisted with marketing within the voluntary sector? Is he aware that one of the biggest frustrations is the lack of liaison between the MSC, which often provides initial funding, and his Department, which seems not to be aware of the developments within the voluntary sector and the general problem that responsibility for assistance to the voluntary sector is split among so many Departments? Will he take responsibility for co-ordinating the activities of voluntary bodies to create employment and marketing?

I should certainly like to look in greater depth at the problem which the hon. Gentleman has outlined. An initial suggestion, which might prove helpful, is that those voluntary organisations should get in touch with the small firms service, because what I omitted to say earlier is that there is a degree of marketing skills within these small firms counselling teams.

Is my hon. Friend aware that many small firms within my constituency and elsewhere would be much more successful in their marketing if they could get better help and support from the banks? Will he look at that question?

There is no doubt in my mind that over recent years the main clearing banks have proved to be more helpful and flexible than they had been in the past. Certainly my mail bag is full of complaints about the banking system and, perhaps, a degree of inflexibility on the part of the banks. Although I am not standing at this Dispatch Box to defend the clearing bank system in any way, I must point out that it would have been impossible, for example, for us to get the loan guarantee scheme off the ground without the support of the banks, and I very much welcome that support.