To encourage the next generation of innovative entrepreneurs, our modern industrial strategy announced the biggest increase in public research and development funding on record—an extra £7 billion by 2021-22. We have also launched an independent review of the barriers facing young entrepreneurs, and we have published a review of the barriers facing female entrepreneurs.
I very much welcome that answer, and I very much welcome the Minister on his debut appearance at the Dispatch Box. I would also very much like to welcome him to Windsor, where residents of the royal borough have the lowest council tax in the country and residents of Bracknell Forest have low council tax but also high-quality services. That is why so many talented people come to Windsor to live and work. Will the Minister join me in recognising the good work of the Thames Valley Berkshire local enterprise partnership and the two key local authorities in making the Windsor constituency a great place to live, work and, above all, to start and run a business?
I agree with my hon. Friend and welcome his support for the good work of the Thames Valley Berkshire LEP and his local councils. My officials will work with his LEP and its local authority partners to produce a local industrial strategy for Berkshire that will boost productivity and support business start-ups. That is in addition to the £142 million local growth fund investment that we have already made in the county.
Similarly, in my constituency, young entrepreneurs trying to set up businesses, particularly in the digital sector, face a real shortage in the availability of electricity through the district grid—an issue identified by my local LEP. Will the Minister agree to meet me and the LEP to see what can be done to improve the situation?
We are working closely with LEPs on this issue, but I will be more than happy to meet the hon. Gentleman.
To be the best place to grow and start a business means having consistent rules and regulations. My brilliant local Medway Licensed Taxi Drivers Association has raised a real concern about Uber operating in Medway without having the same rules and regulations as association members. Will the Minister meet me and that brilliant association to look at those rules and regulations, to ensure that they are fair? I declare an interest: I have relatives in that trade.
My hon. Friend is a huge champion of his constituency, and particularly its small businesses. That meeting would probably be more appropriate with the Minister for small business, the Under-Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, my hon. Friend the Member for Rochester and Strood (Kelly Tolhurst), and I am sure that she will be happy to take such a meeting.
Does the Minister agree that after our eventual departure from the EU the growth of more small businesses and the expansion of existing small businesses, freed from bureaucracy, will be central to the economy of the entire United Kingdom, including Northern Ireland?
Small businesses are the backbone of our economy. I was proud to be a small businessman myself, employing eight people, in my life before politics. We are ranked in the top 10 globally as a place to do business, and this Government will continue to do everything they can to support small business.