As of 15 November, the bounce back loan scheme has supported nearly 1.4 million businesses with facilities totalling over £42 billion. This includes the extra amounts received from our bounce back loans, which have been topped up to a higher amount, providing further help to businesses that are in need of monetary support.
The scheme has been a huge success, but according to research by the all-party parliamentary group on fair business banking and Funding Xchange, about 250,000 businesses were locked out of the scheme because they banked with non-bank lenders and the banks that have liquidity to provide funds in this way either closed to new customers or have no appointments left until the end of January, when the scheme closes. What action is my hon. Friend taking to address this very important issue?
The Government cannot force lenders to open to new bank customers for bounce back loans, but we have repeatedly encouraged lenders to open when it is operationally possible for them to do so. Indeed, nine lenders have managed to open to new customers for a period, and two are currently open, although for limited services. Their efforts, combined with the fact that accredited lenders account for a very high proportion of business in personal current accounts, mean that the vast majority of businesses should be able to get a bounce back loan through their existing relationship. Following the decision by the Chancellor to extend the scheme to 31 January, there are now two and a half months left to apply for a loan, after which we will be introducing a new guarantee scheme.
This weekend, we will mark Small Business Saturday, when we all have the opportunity to praise the work of the fantastic small businesses that contribute so much to our local economies and have been through a tough time this year. Bounce back loans have helped small businesses, but because of the ongoing pandemic, they have, by definition, also left some businesses with debts that they may not be able to pay. What is the Government’s estimate of the likely rate of default on bounce back loans, and what further support can the Government give to small businesses whose trading conditions will continue to be severely impaired for months to come?
The right hon. Gentleman rightly praises the work of small businesses up and down the country, and I echo his sentiments. He asks about the provision we have made for the future of bounce back loans. Those who have taken out the loans will not be starting to repay, because there is an interest-free period until May next year. Indeed, we have decided to extend the time to pay for up to 10 years. Clearly, we keep these matters under review and are very sensitised to the burdens that small businesses face. That is why, as the Chancellor said earlier, we have introduced a number of measures in addition to the bounce back loans to support small businesses at this time.
The Minister talked about the default issues on the loans but also about extended payback. Has he or the Treasury done a calculation about whether that will reduce the up to 80% expected potential for default on the payback of these loans, which obviously businesses need but will hit taxpayers very dearly?
There have been a range of estimates due to the considerable challenges in verifying data. What I would say is that our priority has been to protect as many businesses and jobs throughout with this intervention. We have always considered the fraud risks and the need to maintain a sense that the loans need to be paid back, but the Cabinet Office and the British Business Bank are continuing to work on that mitigation strategy, where we have a mandatory system to detect multiple applications. The default risk is an evolving picture that we will keep very close to.