To ask the Secretary of State for Employment what steps his Department is taking to assist small firms to secure Government procurement and other public sector contracts.
My Department gives a high priority to encouraging the participation of small firms in tendering for public sector contracts and in making it easier for them to do so.We have published and widely distributed to Government purchasers a booklet "Think Big, Buy Small" on how to assist small firms in tendering for Government contracts. This has been well received by all Government Departments. My Department is also supporting a purchasing specialist in the Treasury's Central Unit on Purchasing to look at ways of helping Government Departments to improve their purchasing procedures and to provide greater access by small firms to Government business. We have recently updated "Tendering for Government Contracts", a booklet giving contact points and general information on what Departments buy, their procedures and any special opportunities they offer small firms. I am pleased to say all the major spending Departments now successfully produce their own guidance to potential suppliers, and provide feedback to potential suppliers on their bids wherever possible.I intend that my Department should be used as a test bed for good purchasing practices and later this year I hope to meet the heads of Government purchasing departments to update them on the results of this work and to encourage them to explore further the benefits to Government of using small suppliers.
To ask the Secretary of State for Employment how many small firms received counselling from the small firms service in 1988–89.
In 1988–89 the small firms service in England provided 43,029 counselling sessions to 30,634 clients.