Last week, the Office for National Statistics published private sector employment numbers for the first quarter of 2011. They showed that private sector employment has risen for five consecutive quarters by 560,000 in total. That is the largest increase recorded over five consecutive quarters since the ONS started to publish the quarterly series of private sector employment in 1999.
I welcome those figures, but—like other Members—I constantly meet in Lancaster and Fleetwood small and medium-sized enterprises that have orders and could take on new staff and deal with the unemployment situation, but are being frustrated by the banks. What further support can the Minister offer to those much-needed engines of private sector growth?
That is why we introduced Project Merlin. We have also taken other measures to encourage funding for small businesses. The banks have set up the business growth fund, which can invest capital in medium-sized businesses to help them grow. We have approved arrangements for business angels to invest more in small and medium-sized businesses. These are the measures we need to take to introduce a range of available finance so that small businesses and private sector employment can continue to grow.
When a constituent comes to my constituency surgery or writes to me, and I write to the Treasury because that is where their question should be answered, why, after a long process, is the Treasury now saying that I will not get a letter in reply because a circular was sent some months ago? The Minister now answering is the one who is responsible. Why is that practice happening in the Treasury?