HC Deb 24 July 1989 vol 157 cc452-3W
Mr. David Shaw

To ask the Secretary of State for Wales if he will make a statement on the achievements of his Department and his policies in helping small businesses over the last 12 months compared with the previous 12 months; and if he will publish the performance indicators by which his Department monitors those achievements and the statistical results of such monitoring.

Mr. Wyn Roberts

This Department continues to attach a high priority to the promotion of enterprise and to helping small businesses. General economic policies at a national level, national enterprise support policies and initiatives that are unique to Wales are all helping to make Wales a place where small businesses can flourish. Performance indicators including job creation and costs appear in the Government's public expenditure White Paper and the annual reports of the relevant sponsored bodies concerned. In Wales the latest available figures show that by 1987 the total number of businesses registered for VAT was 78,719; an increase of 11.8 per cent. on 1979. The Department's specific policies to encourage enterprise in Wales are:

Gateway Network Launched in 1987 to provide a high quality advice and information service. Gateway network was expanded in 1988 with the inclusion of all of the main banks in Wales to make the service available from an even greater number of organisations. Evaluation by officials indicates a high level of use and customer satisfaction while identifying potential areas for improvement and expansion.

Support for Local Enterprise Agencies Three local enterprise agencies have been approved in Wales during the last 12 months bringing the total to 23. Grants towards their running costs under the grants for local enterprise agencies in Wales scheme totalled £330,000 in 1988–89 (£116,000 in 1987–88).

Enterprise Wales Launched in January 1988, the consultancy initiatives have proved extremely popular. More than 1,600 companies have already applied and this equates to about 6 per cent. of the United Kingdom's share: for higher than would be expected given the size of the Welsh economy. In 1988–89 we exceeded our targets for both business reviews (by 65 per cent.) and applications referred to scheme contractors (by 42 per cent.).

Regional Selective Assistance, Regional Enterprise Grant Small businesses continue to take advantage of the help available under regional selective assistance. In the year to the end of June 1989, 145 small firms (employing less than 200 people) accepted offers of RSA totalling £11.5 million. This compares with 68 small firms accepting offers of £4.9 million in the previous 12 months. Since April of last year firms employing fewer than 25 people have been eligible for regional enterprise grant: to date 265 offers have been made worth £2.2 million.

WDA Advisory Services In 1988–89 the WDA's business development unit handled 12,000 requests for advice; 12 per cent. up on 1987–88. Overall the Unit handled over 52,000 general inquiries, an increase of 20 per cent. over the previous year.