My Department is taking a number of steps to support businesses and promote investment across the regions, including schemes such as grants for business investment, the enterprise finance guarantee and support for collaborative research and development projects. In addition, BIS supports the regional development agency, Yorkshire Forward, which has spent more than £200 million supporting businesses in the last two years.
York is performing better than many other cities in the economic downturn. We have a lot of vigorous private sector businesses, but they need help not just with investment, but with exports and in building up their skills base through training. To what extent is Yorkshire Forward focusing on those needs?
My hon. Friend is quite right to point out the local situation in York. He has been very involved in ensuring that there is help for businesses. In fact, Yorkshire Forward supported 17 companies in York during the first two quarters of this year as part of its targeted export support services and, through the Train to Gain enhancement fund, it has supported 32 York businesses. That is a good track record for the RDA in my hon. Friend’s constituency.
Can the Minister explain why small businesses in York and north Yorkshire say that they cannot have access to credit and finance from the Government and from the finance credit guarantee to which she referred? What are the Government doing to make that finance and credit available?
Through Yorkshire Forward, we have established Business Link as the first port of call for businesses to get advice, often, for example, on how to have a free financial health check. That has enabled them to put a case together and access the enterprise finance guarantee and other initiatives. I have to say to the hon. Lady that her party voted against all help in such circumstances—
May I tell the Minister that yesterday I was at the launch in Leeds of two research papers commissioned by The Northern Way, highlighting the significant role that all three RDAs—Yorkshire Forward, Northwest RDA and OneNortheast—are playing in supporting local businesses in their regions? Does my right hon. Friend agree that we need to strengthen the links between the three RDAs if we are to continue to accelerate economic development in the regions and attract skilled workers?
My hon. Friend is quite right to point to the work that has been done across the northern regions. The work of The Northern Way has focused very much on what needs to be done during the economic downturn and in planning for the recovery. The work of the RDAs has been absolutely crucial during this time, and the Conservative party has sent out very conflicting messages about the future—
Because my hon. Friend is doing a great job in ensuring that we work closely with business organisations, the regional development agency and local authorities in Yorkshire and the Humber, to ensure that real help is made available to those businesses and individuals and that we are planning properly for the recovery. The Conservative party voted against all those measures and has no answers for the future in Yorkshire and the Humber.