To ask the Secretary of State for Employment what was the net increase in the number of businesses registered for value added tax in (a) 1978, (b) 1988 and (c) 1989.
Early indications are that the net increase in 1989 was around 80,000, compared with 64,000 in 1988. In the five years 1975 to 1979 together, the net increase was 85,000.
I thank my hon. Friend for that reply. Does not it show, by whatever criterion one would care to take, that this Government's commitment to small businesses is in contrast to that of the previous Administration? Looking to the future, how will we get those small businesses to grow into medium-sized businesses? How can they develop? In particular, they need management training to expand and become the employers of the future.
My hon. Friend is right. Almost as many businesses registered for VAT for the first time on a net basis last year as registered for the whole five years of the. previous Labour Government. My hon. Friend is also right to identify the critical importance to small businesses of management training. Most studies show that small businesses fail more as a result of poor or weak management than of any other factor. That is why my Department has put funding into businesses growth training to help small businesses and why we have played a major role in sponsoring open learning management packages.
Is not it the case that capitalism is poor and weak, at least at the lower levels and for smaller businesses, because nine out of 10 businesses fail in the first year due to the Tory Government's policies? We have learnt a lesson from that north of the border and that lesson has been learnt south of the border as well.
I know that this does not fit in with the hon. Gentleman's view of the world, but the fact is that well over 1 million more people work for themselves now than in 1979. That shows that the commitment to enterprise is alive and kicking.