To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland 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 place a high priority on helping small businesses, through improvements to the busniness climate, through deregulation and through specific programmes of support and assistance.Small businesses are of crucial importance to the Scottish economy and are continuing to benefit from the comprehensive schemes of support which the Government have introduced. My Department has overall responsibility for assisting small firms in Scotland while specific schemes are delivered mainly through Scottish Enterprise, Highlands and Islands Enterprise and the network of 22 local enterprise companies. In addition to providing services specific to Scotland, these bodies also have responsibility for the delivery and monitoring in Scotland of United Kingdom services on behalf of other Departments including the Department of Trade and Industry. Measures operated directly by my Department to assist small business include the regional enterprise grant for investment, regional enterprise grant for innovation and regional selective assistance.For the period 1992–93, my Department made 102 offers of regional selective assistance to the value of over £18·2 million to small companies—those employing fewer than 200. This contributed to the creation of 2,320 planned new jobs and the safeguarding of 480 existing jobs. Under both the investment and innovation elements of the regional enterprise grant scheme, 272 offers to the value of £3.5 million were made in Scotland in 1992–93 to companies employing under 25 people, contributing to the creation of 1,060 planned new jobs and the safeguarding of 940 existing jobs.The success of these and other Government policies is demonstrated by statistics for VAT registration. A total of 9,800 additional companies registered for VAT in 1980. In 1991, the comparable figure was 13,900, an increase of 42 per cent. At the end of 1991, the total number of VAT-registered businesses in Scotland was 118,000 an increase of 24,600 or 26 per cent. on the comparable Figure for 1979.