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Big Society Capital

Volume 537: debated on Wednesday 14 December 2011

Big Society Capital is all about trying to make it easier for social entrepreneurs to access capital. We think that we are making good progress, moving swiftly through the Financial Services Authority authorisation and EU state-aid approval processes, and we are confident that Big Society Capital will be open for business by spring. In the meantime, the interim investment committee, which made its first investment in July, will announce its next investment shortly.

I thank the Minister for his answer. My focus is on the voluntary organisations whose budgets are always tight, so will he advise me on how he can enhance their capacity to take advantage of the opportunities afforded by Big Society Capital?

My hon. Friend knows from his lengthy experience in the area that we have fantastic social entrepreneurs in this country, and we want to make it easier for them to access capital, but, as he points out, some of them need more help to become more investment-ready. That is exactly why we have set up a £10 million investment and contract readiness fund—to provide grants for organisations that want to attract investment but know they need more help to become more investment-ready.

Among the Public Administration Committee’s many criticisms in its report today, it rightly highlights that Ministers cannot expect the big society bank to provide the solution to the funding crisis that their cuts are causing for hundreds of charities. Given that the report goes on effectively to accuse Ministers of being out of touch and not providing effective leadership to tackle the problems that charities face, would not now be the perfect time for yet another one of the Prime Minister’s big society re-launches?

I am not going to take any lectures on leadership and Big Society Capital from the Opposition, because they talked for 10 years about setting it up but did not actually do it. We are doing it because we want to make it easier for social entrepreneurs to access capital. It is on track, and we are very proud of it.