asked the Paymaster General if he has any plans to review the control and vetting procedures over applications for enterprise allowance and the subsequent use of funds granted under this scheme; and if he will make a statement.
All aspects of the enterprise allowance scheme are kept under review. I am, however, satisfied that the present eligibility criteria and control and vetting procedures are appropriate. All businesses supported by the scheme are monitored twice during the year in which they receive the allowance to ensure that they continue to meet the eligibility criteria.
I thank my hon. Friend for his reply, which demonstrates the extent to which that popular scheme is being monitored. Does he agree that, although any monitoring must be kept under review, the success of the scheme under the present system is guaranteed?
I certainly would be happy to give that guarantee. It is important to stress that we have changed the procedure as from 1 January this year, whereby the more effective monitoring procedure is put in place. We have also made awareness days compulsory for people who seek to apply for the EAS.
Does my hon. Friend accept that the highest percentage of employment growth has been in the new and smaller business sector? Does that not illustrate well how important it is for schemes such as the enterprise allowance scheme to encourage people to start in business on their own?
My hon. Friend is right. The enterprise allowance scheme has played a significant part in ensuring that the number of self-employed people is the highest for 60 years. The net increase in small businesses on a weekly basis is the highest in recorded history.