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Business Support

Volume 521: debated on Thursday 13 January 2011

The Department’s plans for supporting business are being developed in a growth review looking at all the barriers to private sector investment growth and job creation—in particular, access to finance, planning and regulation. I shall be specifically working to support business through the regional growth fund, establishing the green investment bank and launching technology and innovation centres.

In the early 1990s, when I set up my first business, I received a small weekly grant through the successful enterprise allowance scheme. It was only £20 a week—but in those days people could fill up their cars with fuel for £20 a week. It was enormously helpful in supporting the early stage of the business. Can the Secretary of State give me, and constituents of mine who are thinking of setting up a small business, any indication that the Government will introduce a similar scheme?

I can give my hon. Friend that assurance: indeed, we have already done so. In October my colleague the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions launched a new enterprise scheme to help precisely the category of people that my hon. Friend describes. It will provide mentoring and funding of up to £2,000, including a weekly allowance and access to a start-up loan.

Does the Secretary of State agree with Winston Churchill’s formulation that he would

“rather see finance less proud and business and industry”

more confident? Does he think that the grovelling capitulation of his Bullingdon club colleagues to the banks this week really upholds that principle?

Mr Churchill’s views have much to commend them, and they are still relevant in many ways. Certainly, we wish to see manufacturing promoted and finance working in support of it rather than against it.

The Secretary of State shares my view that the life sciences are a key part of the UK small business sector. Does he share my concern that on the basis of the initial representations from the new local enterprise partnerships, there appears to be a lack of appreciation of the importance of joined-up national work on life sciences? Will he agree to meet me and a delegation from the UK life sciences network to talk about how we can ensure that life sciences are properly built in?

I would certainly be very happy to meet the hon. Gentleman. As it happens, as part of the growth review, life sciences and related activities are subject to close scrutiny, and I know that my colleague the Minister for Universities and Science is giving the matter a very high priority.