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Youth Entrepreneurship

Volume 659: debated on Tuesday 30 April 2019

First, I would like to update the House: unfortunately, my right hon. Friend the Minister for Energy and Clean Growth will be unable to join us this morning due to a family illness.

Our young people provide an invaluable contribution to the UK economy—they are more than twice as likely to be entrepreneurs as their peers in France and Germany—and we are supporting them. The start-up loans programme has provided over £60 million in loans to 18 to 24-year-olds since 2012. To further realise young entrepreneurs’ potential, I have asked the Prince’s Trust to lead a review to identify the barriers that they face.

In 2017-18, recent graduates from the University of East Anglia set up 247 start-ups employing 1,015 people. Will my hon. Friend reassure me that the Government will continue to fund these schemes, as they mean so much to young people and help to create a vibrant economy?

I thank my hon. Friend for that question. Through our industrial strategy, we recognise the valuable contribution from the creation of spin-outs and start-ups by businesses from university. That is why we have committed to increasing higher education innovation funding from £160 million to £250 million per year by 2020-21. This will help to increase universities’ capacity to engage in commercialisation and work with business.

Is the Minister aware that recent research from Sheffield University and King’s College London shows that young entrepreneurs face a very bleak future? In particular, the impact of leaving the EU on many of the very constituents who voted leave is a drop of between 17% and 20% in GDP. That is ruinous for so many of our industrial towns. What is she going to do about it?

The hon. Gentleman makes a valid point, but it is true that young people in the UK are twice as likely to be entrepreneurs as those in France and Germany. Our percentages for young entrepreneurs are significantly higher. We are committed to our industrial strategy. I have asked the Prince’s Trust to undertake the review so that we understand specifically what the barriers are for young people and come up with a package to be able to help them.

I congratulate the Minister on her inspired decision to appoint the Prince’s Trust, which is a wonderful organisation that does magnificent work. Will it concentrate on 18 to 30-year-olds, and when is she expecting it to report?

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for allowing me to highlight some of the details of the youth entrepreneurship review. It has started and the board will be announced shortly. It will be looking at 18 to 30-year-olds, and we are hoping that it will report in the autumn. He is absolutely correct: the Prince’s Trust does amazing work with young people from all types of background. In fact, there is already a programme with the Prince’s Trust and Innovate UK that provides mentoring to young people and makes available loans of up to £5,000.

The Scottish Government’s 2018-19 Budget means that 90% of firms in Scotland pay lower rates than they would if they were based elsewhere in the UK. Given that 55% of individuals will pay less tax than they would in the rest of the UK, what lessons do the Government plan to take in terms of supporting Scotland’s young entrepreneurs and those elsewhere in the UK?

The hon. Gentleman highlights specific differences within Scotland, but we are interested in making sure that young people are able to follow their dreams and aspirations whichever part of the country they happen to be in. We are announcing the young entrepreneurs review so that we can look at all the different barriers, including access to finance—something that the Government and I, as the small business Minister, take very seriously—and make sure that we create the right environment for our small businesses to start up, thrive and grow.