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Small Businesses

Volume 616: debated on Tuesday 8 November 2016

12. What steps his Department is taking to increase opportunities for the development of small businesses. (907126)

We are committed to creating the best environment for small businesses to start and grow. The British Business Bank has provided £3.2 billion of finance to over 51,000 small businesses. The doubling of the small business rate relief will mean that 600,000 small and medium-sized enterprises will pay no rates at all.

The Minister will be pleased to hear from Rugby’s local chamber of commerce that our businesses are doing well—so well, in fact, that there is a shortage of industrial accommodation, especially smaller units, and that is holding back start-ups and small businesses wanting to grow. Can any steps be taken to encourage property developers to provide more accommodation for this important sector?

My hon. Friend works tirelessly for businesses in Rugby, and it is great to hear about their growth. I urge him to get in touch with the Coventry and Warwickshire LEP. When I visited it in September, I was advised that the Coventry and Warwickshire growth hub is providing support to local businesses that are expanding and looking to move premises.

According to the Federation of Small Businesses, of those small businesses that export, 82% export to other EU member states. What plan does the Minister have to support small businesses through Brexit?

According to the World Bank, the UK is now ranked first in the G7 and seventh out of 190 countries for ease of doing business, and that includes trade and exports, whether to the EU or outside the EU. We achieved that status while belonging to the EU, and I have no doubt that the Government are doing all they can to ensure that we will retain that status as we transition to a new relationship with the EU.

On Small Business Saturday, I will launch my third annual small business competition in Penwortham. May I invite the Minister to join me on that day? What is the Department doing to promote Small Business Saturday?

I thank my hon. Friend for her plans to get involved in Small Business Saturday on the first Saturday of December. My Department will support Small Business Saturday with events across the country to which hon. Members are invited. In particular, they should contact their LEPs to see what is going on locally and join the hon. Lady, and all of us, in visiting a small business on the first Saturday in December.

In the United States, 23% of federal Government direct spending is with small businesses; in this country, the like-for-like direct comparison is just under 11%. Is it not time that we learned from President Obama’s success in government? If we did, we would improve quality and value for money for the taxpayer, support growth for small firms and help rebalance the economy. That is what I call a plan.

I certainly agree with the hon. Gentleman that we need to invest more in support for SMEs, and that is precisely what we intend to do in my Department.