§ 10. Simon Hughes (Southwark, North and Bermondsey) (LD)
What assessment she has made of the number of businesses in London registering for VAT in (a) 2001–02, (b) 2002–03 and (c) 2003–04. 
§ The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Trade and Industry (Nigel Griffiths)
In 2001, 34,845 businesses registered in London. We raised the VAT threshold to the highest in Europe, so thousands of businesses in London no longer have to register for VAT. In 2002, London's rate of VAT registrations was 54 per cent above the national average. For 2003, early indications show a significant rise in VAT registrations. VAT registrations, of course, do not tell the whole story.
§ Simon Hughes
If the intention was to hide the real truth. I have never heard a better answer. The Minister 1465 knows that between 2000 and 2002 the number of businesses in London went down by 15 per cent., the greatest fall of any region in England, and in the region with the highest unemployment rate of any region in England. Given that economic policy for London is the joint responsibility of the present Government and the current Mayor of London. what will the Minister do about the failing policy both from this place and from city hall?
§ Mr. Griffiths
I do not take lesson on statistics from the Liberals. I note that the hon. Gentleman was not interested in responding to my comments about the 2003 figures, because they are too optimistic for him to stomach. Why does he not take the figures from Barclays, which show that the latest survey reveals that the number of start-ups in London increased by 2.5 per cent., to 41,000, in the last year for which figures are available? I know that the hon. Gentleman will want to join me in congratulating the Mayor of London on the part he may have played in the growth of businesses there.