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Small Businesses

Volume 229: debated on Tuesday 27 July 1993

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To ask the Secretary of State for Wales if he will make a statement on the achievements of (a) his policies and (b) his Department in helping small businesses over the last 12 months as against the previous 12 months; and if he will publish the performance indicators by which his Department monitors those achievements and the statistical results of such monitoring.

The Government continue to help small businesses through improvements to the business climate, through deregulation and through specific programmes of support and assistance.Measures operated by my Department to assist small businesses include:

Enterprise Promotion

There are now seven training and enterprise councils (TECs) providing business counselling and support for small businesses across Wales. During 1992–93, TECs received 42,843 inquiries and provided 13,903 counselling sessions. In the same year, TECs also provided business start-up funding totalling £1·919 million; 2,077 businesses were using the business start-up scheme at the end of March 1993.

In addition to the work of the TECs, local enterprise agencies provide a range of support services to new and growing businesses. There are now 22 local enterprise agencies in Wales, including four merged to form two new agencies in 1991. The 22nd agency commenced operations on 2 July 1993. Enterprise and small business growth are also promoted under the Enterprise Wales scheme. Since its launch in 1988, more than 6,500 companies have applied for consultancy advice provided through this initiative

Grant Support

Small businesses continue to take advantage of help available under regional selective assistance. During the year ending 30 June 1993, 120 firms employing under 200 accepted offers of regional selective assistance totalling £22·463 million, an increase of almost 17 per cent. on the previous year. A further 163 small firms—i.e., those with fewer than 25 employees for investment grant and fewer than 50 for innovation grant—accepted offers of regional enterprise grant totalling £2·469 million, an increase of 38 per cent. over the same period.

In addition, the Welsh Development Agency made 80 loans during 1992–93 with a value of £0·631 million from its small loans scheme. The Development Board for Rural Wales offered £2·8 million mid-Wales development grant assistance to 36 projects helping to generate private sector investment of £22 million and creating or safeguarding 1,172 job opportunities.

The small firms merit award for research and technology (SMART) continues to be very popular. In the previous two years, Welsh industry has gained 16 of the awards, 9 per cent. of the United Kingdom total. Under the support for products under research scheme (SPUR), grant support awarded to companies in Wales rose from £0·75 million in 1991 to £0·96 million in 1992, a percentage increase of 28 per cent.

Deregulation

The Welsh Office is contributing fully to the Government's deregulation initiative to lift the burden of Government regulations on business. No Wales-only regulations have been identified as placing a burden on business, but a consultation exercise is being carried out to assess the impact of United Kingdom-wide regulations on Welsh firms.