The Government have introduced several measures aimed at improving all types of lending to businesses, such as the funding for lending scheme, the British Business Bank and the SME appeals process. Against this backdrop, gross lending to businesses in Q1 2014 was almost 10% higher than in the same quarter a year earlier, and 32% of SMEs that have been through the appeals process have had their initial loan rejection overturned.
On the Government’s watch, net lending to business is down by some £57 billion since May 2010. Does that not underline the case for further banking reform, for an expansion of the use of community development financial institutions, and for consistent disclosure of bank lending data?
The hon. Gentleman will know that the great recession in 2008-09 that the previous Government presided over left banks in an absolute mess, and it takes a very long time to recover from such a devastating position. The banks are still trying to sort out their balance sheets, and net lending has been down. It will take time to recover, but this Government are putting measures in place to create new access to finance from all sorts of different lenders. I was delighted yesterday to support the credit union movement on its 50th anniversary with a call for evidence on how we can expand that area of activity for.
I draw attention to my entry in the Register of Members’ Financial Interests. Does the Minister agree with me that, as well as stabilising and reforming the banking system, one of the key aspects of the long-term economic plan is the creation since 2010 of many new local banks that provide alternative and expanded lending to retail and business customers?
Yes, I absolutely agree with my hon. Friend. The Government want more competition and diversity in the banking sector, which is why we asked the old Financial Services Authority to review the barriers to entry for banks, why we legislated to give the Financial Conduct Authority strong competition powers, and why we created the payment systems regulator to look at fair access to payment systems.
In recent discussions with women entrepreneurs I have been struck by the number who have said they were surprised by the banks’ attitude towards them and their businesses. I spoke to one entrepreneur who said that only when she was featured in a TV programme did a bank phone her up and offer her a loan. What discussions has the Chancellor had with banks about women-led businesses, the demand for lending and how many they are lending to?
This Government have taken great steps to improve competition and I am delighted that, currently, the regulator is talking to 25 new applicants for new banks. We are also taking steps to ensure that those who get turned down for credit have the opportunity to go to other challenger banks to access other sources of finance. I am sure that the hon. Lady will welcome the steps that the Financial Secretary to the Treasury, my right hon. Friend the Member for Loughborough (Nicky Morgan), is taking to improve particularly the support the Government are giving to female entrepreneurs.
Increasing competition in the sector is key to improving lending. The Minister mentioned that the Prudential Regulation Authority is looking at 25 new applications for licensing to be banks. How does this compare with the decade before 2010?
My hon. Friend may know that in May 2010, when Metro bank was granted a full banking licence, that was the first new full banking licence for over 100 years, so the fact that the regulator is talking to potentially more than 25 new banks is very good news for competition and choice in the UK.