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Business Support

Volume 597: debated on Tuesday 30 June 2015

I am more than happy to answer questions.

More than 30,000 people have benefited from more than £155 million worth of loans expert business advice provided by the Start-Up Loans company, and around 70,000 unemployed people have set up their own businesses with the help of the new enterprise allowance scheme. The business support helpline provides free expert advice to help people start their own businesses in England.

North West Hampshire is literally pullulating with people such as Joanne Bishop of Atalanta Jewellery who pluck up their courage and their savings to start their own business. They often have a skill or an idea that they want to put into action, but they lack the expertise to do so, and are often faced with the might of the state. Will the Minister outline what she and her Department will do to provide support to entrepreneurs in future, particularly in taking on the Government?

I think “pullulating” is a parliamentary word, Mr Speaker, but I think it was a new one on both of us.

We take that issue seriously and various schemes are available, including the business support helpline. I would be more than happy to meet my hon. Friend, who I welcome to his place, to discuss the issue. Ensuring that once people have started a business they can continue to grow it and get support, is an issue we take seriously.

I have been advised by a scholarly source that “pullulating” means to breed rapidly or abundantly. We are immensely grateful to the hon. Member for North West Hampshire (Kit Malthouse) for his dexterity in the English language.

Like me, the Minister will no doubt be concerned that only one in five of those new start-up businesses is led by women. I know that she is keen on Twitter accounts, but let me give her a better idea of something that her own Department came up with, although sadly her predecessors refused to implement. Will she commit to monitoring selling to businesses led by women in the supply chain, and help to get British women back into business?

We know that more women are employed now than ever before. Call me an old-fashioned feminist but—[Interruption.] I understand that Opposition Members could call me far worse than that. I support the many wonderful initiatives that have been introduced to encourage women to come into business and set up their own businesses. It is striking, however, that all the meetings I have had with big businesses have been very male-dominated. We find an abundance of women in the small business sector—[Interruption.] The hon. Lady shakes her head but that is a fact, and that is because women have so much talent.