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Small Business Sector

Volume 635: debated on Tuesday 30 January 2018

We are actively supporting small businesses by enhancing the business support helpline and funding growth hubs in every local enterprise partnership area in England. The new Small Business Commissioner will help with payment issues, and British Business Bank programmes support nearly £4 billion of finance to more than 60,000 small and medium-sized enterprises.

I thank the Minister and welcome him to his new position. Sellafield in my Copeland constituency is one of Britain’s biggest single-site employers. It is about to award its multimillion PPP contract. What is he doing to promote the role of SMEs, rather than just large companies, when awarding those contracts?

I clarify to the House that PPP stands for “programme and project partners” and not, as many might have assumed, “public-private partnership”. The programme that my hon. Friend talks about will support Sellafield in decommissioning and contains provisions designed to support small businesses. In November 2015, the Cabinet Office agreed to a target of 31% of spend with SMEs for the Government’s Nuclear Decommissioning Authority. Moreover, as the Small Business Minister, I will look at what I can do to ensure that more is done to help small businesses to win Government contracts.

Will the Minister join me in commending the work of the Erewash Partnership, which helps entrepreneurs in my constituency to start up and grow their own small businesses? Will he consider what more Government can do to help such organisations expand their support services?

I am delighted to join my hon. Friend in applauding the work of the Erewash Partnership, which she will know was a previous winner of a national enterprise award—well done them. Through our industrial strategy, all businesses in every region will have access to a growth hub. We have announced a further £24 million of core funding over the next two years for growth hubs, including the D2N2, which I understand works with the Erewash Partnership. I am delighted to work with her to do what I can to support businesses in her constituency.

Stability among larger tier 1 suppliers is really important to SMEs in the automotive and aerospace supply chains. Given that, does the Minister agree that if the Melrose bid for GKN splits up and sells off that company, as is anticipated, that cannot be in the interests of either sector or SMEs in this country?

We are always sensitive and aware of the impacts on the supply chain. We need a strong supply chain, but I point the hon. Gentleman to the Secretary of State’s previous answer on that issue.

Support for the small business sector will be even more urgent given the findings of the UK Government’s leaked Brexit analysis, which shows that in all current scenarios, businesses across all sectors and all parts of the UK will be hammered with between 2% and 8% reductions in GDP growth. Will the Minister confirm what planning his Department has undertaken in the light of those figures? Is he declining to publish because it is too embarrassing?

The hon. Gentleman will know that that issue is the subject of an urgent question later on in the House. I would hate to spoil his fun, so I will leave it to others.