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Small Businesses (Lending)

Volume 518: debated on Thursday 18 November 2010

The latest official information shows that more than two thirds of loan applications from small firms are approved. However, the Government are determined to press the banks to ensure that creditworthy businesses have the finance that they need. Among the actions that we are taking are enforcing lending codes, improving customer information and extending the enterprise finance guarantee.

I thank the Minister for his response. Last week I met the Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire Federation of Small Businesses, which was extremely disappointed that the Government had ditched our plans for a Post Office bank. That would not only have provided small businesses with an alternative source of lending, but helped to sustain the post office network that so many of them rely on. I heard what the Under-Secretary of State, the hon. Member for Kingston and Surbiton (Mr Davey), said earlier in response to my hon. Friend the Member for Kilmarnock and Loudoun (Cathy Jamieson), but will Ministers think again?

With due respect, the hon. Lady forgets that the banks and the community development finance institutions are a crucial part of this discussion. If the FSB in her area wishes to make representations, I would encourage it, with her support, to do so.

In spite of what the Minister says, what is he doing to allay the concerns of eBay, which says that banks are still not lending to businesses? His Government did have lending targets for financing small businesses—what happened to them?

We still have the lending targets. The key thing is enforcement, which, despite the chuntering from those on the Opposition Front Bench, the last Government failed to do. What is important is that we now have a new lending code. The hon. Lady is absolutely right to say that businesses—whether they be eBay-based or real rather than virtual or online businesses—want a lending code and a proper appeal process. We have those, and I am determined to make sure that we enforce them.

A firm in my constituency cannot get money from the banks, which, if they do lend, do so at a 25% interest rate. It is a very successful company, but the banks, in order to gain liquidity, are stopping lending. We really must put more pressure on them.

I agree with my hon. Friend. Let me make it very clear again that when right hon. and hon. Members find unreasonable behaviour from the banks, they should ensure that it is raised with them and they should copy me in. When we find that evidence, we will challenge the banks vigorously.

As I know the Minister is aware, the highest of the high-technology growth businesses tend to rely for their early-stage finance not on banks but on early-stage investors, angels and family. Will he agree to make representations to the Treasury to look at anything we can do to incentivise such sources of finance?

I and my Treasury colleagues are already looking at how to improve business angel finance, not least at how the enterprise investment scheme works. We are also looking to extend a further £200 million in equity funds to the capital enterprise fund.