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Small Firms (Coalfield Areas)

Volume 205: debated on Friday 6 March 1992

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To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if he will make a statement about new business support measures to assist small firms in coalfield areas.

As foreseen in my statement on 17 February and following the European Commission's approval of the RECHAR programmes on 26 February, I am introducing in the English RECHAR areas a new £14 million scheme for business support measures, which will contribute to those programmes. This is subject to the Commission's approval under the state aids section of the EEC treaty.Department of Trade and Industry regional offices will respond flexibly to the needs of each coalfield area, selecting the most suitable assistance from a range of authorised measures.This scheme which will be additional to the Government's existing assistance for small firms, will help diversify the economy of ex-coalmining areas by providing assistance for business start-ups and for small to medium-sized companies seeking growth and innovation development.The authorised measures are:

Support for economic promotion agencies and local community initiatives, e.g. local task forces and business clubs and for specialist consultancy support not otherwise provided.
Support for the provision of common services and feasibility studies relating to the provision of managed workspace and move-on business accommodation.
Encouragement for innovation in industry and its commercial application in small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).
Assistance for risk appraisal by non-profit making organisations.
Support for the provision of information to SMEs to improve their access to relevant markets.

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland will be inviting the local enterprise companies in Scottish RECHAR areas to promote business development schemes of their own tailored to local circumstances. Such schemes will be eligible for support from the European regional development fund and matching funding will be provided by the Government, under transitional arrangements for 1992–93.

In addition to the agreed new arrangements for regional innovation grants which will apply to all Great Britain, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Wales will be extending regional investment grants into the designated RECHAR areas in Wales.