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Small and Medium-sized Enterprises

Volume 526: debated on Thursday 31 March 2011

Small businesses are vital to the economy and to future employment. That is why we have tackled the cost of employment by reversing the last Government’s plans for a payroll tax increase, and why the Under-Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills, my hon. Friend the Member for Kingston and Surbiton (Mr Davey) has launched a comprehensive review of employment law to make the system easier and fairer for employees and employers.

I was pleased to see that the Federation of Small Businesses welcomed the Government’s three-year moratorium on new domestic legislation for micro-businesses. Will my hon. Friend assure the House that that and other measures to reduce the regulatory burden and increase job creation by small and medium-sized enterprises will be taken forward at pace, and that there will be regular updates to the House on their progress?

I am delighted to confirm that to the House. Those measures are crucial. We have to remember that under the previous Government, the proportion of employers who were small businesses dropped from well over a third to well under a quarter, and that was in a period of growth. We need to ensure that we reverse that trend.

One way to increase employment in small and medium-sized businesses in Stoke-on-Trent would be for us to have an enterprise zone. Following the Prime Minister’s very positive response to a question from my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent North (Joan Walley) yesterday and the extensive meetings that north Staffs MPs have had with the Secretary of State, can the Minister give some comfort to people in north Staffordshire that the local enterprise partnership will be looked on favourably, and could we have a meeting?

The hon. Gentleman is right that enterprise zones will be advantageous for small businesses. There is a second opportunity for 10 further enterprise zones. We are happy to talk to the local enterprise partnership in that area to ensure that it is able to put forward a positive dialogue. If the hon. Gentleman and other Members wish to participate in that, I suspect that my diary secretary will not be thrilled, but I shall be happy to see them.