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Business Start-ups

Volume 609: debated on Tuesday 3 May 2016

We have a growing and healthy economy, which is good for all business, but which, in particular, encourages people who want to start up their own businesses. We are looking at ways in which we can improve, for example, practices for self-employed people, which is also very helpful. Our start-up loans scheme has provided more than 37,000 loans worth over £210 million.

In my constituency, the number of registered businesses increased by about 10% between 2014 and 2015. As I am sure my right hon. Friend will agree, that is very welcome. I recently visited Streetly Vets, a new business that has been set up by two sisters in my constituency. Does my right hon. Friend agree, however, that the first few years of being in business can be some of the most challenging, and will she assure me that the Government are doing all that they can to support new and small businesses?

I absolutely agree with my hon. Friend that it is the first few years that are the trickiest. If you can jump that hurdle, you can achieve almost anything; you can certainly make sure that your business will grow. I have explained about the start-up loans that we do, but the other great achievement of this Government in the past 12 months is our work on cutting business rates. This has been the biggest ever cut in business rates, reducing the burden by £6.7 billion, which will benefit 900,000 smaller properties. That is very good news, especially for small businesses.

Small businesses might like to start up in the town centre of New Ferry in my constituency, except that footfall has gone through the floor and the Co-op and Lloyds bank are now closing. Who should my constituents blame for the dereliction? Is it the Tory Ministers who withdrew from regeneration, or is it the absentee landlords who bought up property and are now nowhere to be seen?

I really do not think it is as simple as that. It is unfortunate that when bad news is delivered it is often turned into a party political football. There are all sorts of reasons why a number of high streets continue to have difficulties. Equally, there are all manner of solutions that can be used to turn them around. I would ask the hon. Lady to look at some of the successes of Conservative, Labour and indeed Lib Dem councils in helping and supporting their high streets. Most importantly I would suggest that, rather than talking down her high street, she should be talking it up.