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Volume 575: debated on Tuesday 11 February 2014

1. What steps the Government are taking with local enterprise partnerships to promote entrepreneurship in towns and communities across the UK. (902503)

Local enterprise partnerships, independently and through city deals, promote entrepreneurship in a variety of ways, including by providing help and advice to small businesses, premises for start-ups and access to venture capital funds. Next month, in my hon. Friend’s area, a small business support service will begin, bringing together the local enterprise partnership, the chambers of commerce, the Federation of Small Businesses, the Institute of Directors and the Engineering Employers Federation, to assist new and growing businesses in his area.

Successful entrepreneurs, particularly in local communities, are best placed to promote growth, jobs and prosperity. May I meet the Minister to discuss how we can work together to develop a national network of local enterprise funds to tap into communities’ sense of entrepreneurship?

I would be delighted to do that. I pay tribute to my hon. Friend’s efforts in Bedford, where I think he has brought investors together to fund start-ups and rapidly growing businesses. That is characteristic of many of the city deals that we have struck around the country. For example, in Nottingham, £40 million has been made available, jointly by the Government, Nottinghamshire county council and Nottingham city council, as well as local investors, to help invest in Nottingham businesses. I commend that to colleagues across the House.

The most consistent barrier to entrepreneurship in my constituency is the lack of available finance from banks. Does the right hon. Gentleman accept that today’s announcement by Barclays—of further bonus finance available to its staff—tells us that the Government do not get that it is necessary for them to pressure the banks to start lending in order to encourage entrepreneurship?

The hon. Gentleman knows that the funding for lending scheme, which the Government and the Bank of England have promoted, has explicitly concentrated on getting lending going to small businesses, but as my hon. Friend the Member for Bedford (Richard Fuller) said, bank lending is not the only source of finance needed. The venture capital funds established under our city deals are an important and welcome way in which small businesses can benefit from the finance they need to expand.