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New Enterprise Allowance

Volume 568: debated on Monday 14 October 2013

3. What assessment he has made of the effect of the expansion of the new enterprise allowance on young entrepreneurs. (900435)

7. What assessment he has made of the effect of the expansion of the new enterprise allowance on young entrepreneurs. (900439)

The new enterprise allowance offers support for people of all ages who want to start a business—to date, more than 1,700 young people have done so. We now have an additional 60,000 mentoring places available, so many more will be helped in the future. This is a very successful programme.

My constituent Paul Williams recently received help from the new enterprise allowance to start up his business, Choc Amor. He has twice moved to larger premises, has recently opened a new tea room and now employs nine people. Does my right hon. Friend agree that Paul Williams is a great example of why we should extend the scheme further, so that other hard-working people with drive and determination can get on in life, start a business and support our recovering economy?

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. The example she gives is one of many that prove the programme is working. The scheme was due to end in September 2013, but now, as a result of its success, referrals will extend to 2014. More than 54,000 have taken up the mentoring offer and there is an extra £35 million for an additional 60,000 mentoring places. I hope my hon. Friend, and all hon. Members, will ensure that many more people know about the scheme and have the same opportunity as her constituent.

Last month, I organised a small business fair in Chester. We had the support of the local provider, Blue Orchid, which seems to be doing an excellent job of helping people to start businesses in Cheshire. There are a large number of providers across the country. What assessment has my right hon. Friend made of their effectiveness?

For the most part they provide a good service to all constituents and have been successful in all parts of the country. They operate within Jobcentre Plus districts and are monitored locally. If there are concerns, they are raised with the Jobcentre Plus. Their monthly management information flow gives us a very good overview of the scheme. In the north-west, my hon. Friend’s region, 8,000 have started working with a mentor and 4,420 have started claiming the weekly allowance—a big success.

Most businesses do not survive beyond the first year, and failing generally leaves their owners significantly out of pocket. Would it not be better to concentrate on boosting the economy to create jobs for young people, rather than recommending self-employment which, sadly, may make matters worse for the vast majority?

I am sorry to hear the hon. Gentleman cavil about this programme. The reality is that the two are not mutually exclusive. For those who have a good idea and want to start a business, the scheme provides an opportunity that otherwise would not be there. I remind him that approximately 1,800 18 to 24-year-olds, 18,000 25 to 49-year-olds, 6,000 aged 50-plus, who may well have had difficulty getting a job later on, and 4,800 with disabilities who would have been written off under the old scheme, have now started a business.

Will the Secretary of State look at the problems people are having in making the transition from jobseeker’s allowance to the new enterprise allowance regime, particularly with regard to housing benefit? A constituent, who is keen to set up his own business, came to see me the other day, but immediately found that his housing benefit had been stopped. He is of course still entitled to it in the early stages of claiming NEA.

I am grateful to the hon. Lady for raising the issue and I will definitely have it looked into immediately. It is meant to flow easily. If there is a misunderstanding, or people do not know what it is, we must take that on and ensure that they do.

25. As Essex has a long and rich tradition of enterprise and entrepreneurial endeavour, I thank the Government for introducing the scheme to support the next generation of business leaders in Basildon and Thurrock. Will the Secretary of State tell the House how many businesses have been started with the support of the allowance in Essex, preferably in south Essex? (900457)

I will get back to my hon. Friend about the more specific details, if he wants. About 26,000 new businesses have started already and the target is to get 40,000 going by December 2013. There are about 2,000 start-ups every single month under this scheme. Out of the first 3,000 people on it, 85% are still off benefit a year later. That is a successful scheme.

Is the Secretary of State aware that many Labour Members support this measure, but we are careful about ensuring that the quality of mentoring is good, that the evaluation of the likelihood of success be built on initiatives such as the new scheme of Hertfordshire university and that the scheme leads to long-term sustainable businesses?

As the hon. Gentleman knows, I have great deal of respect for him, and he is right that much depends on the quality of the mentoring; we are doing our level best to make sure that it is as good it could possibly be. If he has any suggestions about how to improve it further, the door is open and I am always happy to see him and discuss them with him. I would revisit any project he would like to nominate if he wanted us to look at any difficulties and I would consider looking at any improvements that might be worth making.

22. I welcome the extension of this excellent scheme to 2014. What discussions has my right hon. Friend had with the Chancellor about extending it further, should it continue to be successful? (900454)

The Chancellor and I of course discuss these matters quite regularly, and the reality is that he is very interested in this scheme. The truth is that a successful economy relies on new business start-ups. This plays exactly into the right arena. In comparison with competitors all over the world, new business start-ups and new businesses are providing the way for us to be successful. I am sure that the Chancellor will readily take my hon. Friend’s suggestions.