British small businesses should be able to benefit from around £4 billion of lending from the EIB between 2008 and 2011. As announced in the pre-Budget report last month, after negotiations between UK banks and the EIB, £1 billion of EIB funds will be available to British small firms by the end of the year. This has now been approved by the EIB.
I am grateful to my hon. Friend. Business people in Stafford are coming to me with ideas for modern, innovative new projects. When they ask the banks for funding, it is not that the banks say no; they just freeze and make no decision at all. Given that entrepreneurial spirit is the lifeblood of the country, and all the more vital in these difficult times, can I go back to those businesses and say that now they can go to their bank and get access to EIB funding?
Yes, he can. Loans are already being made by UK banks using EIB funds. I refer my hon. Friend to media coverage only yesterday; Barclays bank has been making funding available to companies through the European Investment Bank. The question now is for UK banks to disburse quickly and efficiently and pass on the full benefits associated with EIB funds to the small businesses that my hon. Friend was talking about—that are innovative and need those funds to help them to stabilise and grow for the future. That is exactly what is happening and more will be coming in the future.
As I explained, since the pre-Budget report and our agreement with the banks, approval processes have been going through the European Investment Bank. If the hon. Lady reads yesterday’s edition of The Daily Telegraph she will see that Barclays bank has £300 million available for lending to businesses. I encourage all small businesses to look to their bank managers and engage in conversation with them, and to make application for funding that is there at the moment and will continue to be available for the future. On top of that, early in the new year the small business finance scheme will also be available. That is real action being taken by the Government, not the gesturing of the Conservative party.