§ Mr. Michael
To ask the Secretary of State for Wales what further steps he intends to take to help small and medium-sized businesses in Wales.
§ Mr. David Hunt
Small and medium-sized businesses will be further assisted in Wales by a range of enterprise support policies and initiatives. Last month, I was pleased to launch three new schemes. These were as follows:
The Manufacturing Planning and Implementation Scheme (MPI)
Small and medium-sized companies—up to 500 employees —will be able to obtain grants of up to £50,000 to cover half the costs of hiring external expertise necessary to assist them during the planning and implementation stages of new manufacturing projects so that the firms can introduce modern manufacturing systems.
Small and medium sized enterprises technical advice service (SMETAS)
SMETAS will enable small and medium-sized enterprises to obtain easy access to a broad range of local expertise, such as regional technical centres—RTCs, higher and further education institutions and industry—in order to help them solve immediate problems concerned with the application and use of technology. The scheme will be operated and managed by RTCs initially with financial help from the DTI. The Polytechnic of Wales at Pontypridd will be running the scheme in Wales.
Support for products under research (SPUR)
SPUR is designed to help companies with less than 500 employees develop new products and processes which involve a significant technological advance.
Projects of at least £50,000 eligible costs and of between six months and three years' duration may attract grants of 30 per cent. up to a maximum of £150,000.
In addition, small and medium-sized businesses will continue to be assisted through general economic policies at a national level, existing national enterprise support policies and through initiatives which are unique to Wales. These include:524W
"Enterprise Wales" was set up in January 1988 to promote the range of Government assistance to businesses in Wales. This assistance is aimed at continuing growth, development and diversity within the Welsh economy and is particularly aimed at small and medium-sized companies and new businesses. Since its launch, thousands of Welsh businesses have used the various services available in the package, which includes assistance or advice on exporting, the single European market, grant schemes, training, research and development and the consultancy initiatives. It is the programme in Wales for delivery of the enterprise initiative.
My Department continues to help existing and potential exporters to enter new markets overseas. Since March 1990 454 companies have been counselled at their request. A further 372 companies have attended seminars provided under the export initative. A programme of trade missions continues, representatives of 24 companies based in Wales were taken to France in October and 29 will go to Italy this month. Further trade missions are planned for next year.
Regional Selective Assistance and Regional Enterprise Grants
RSA is available to help businesses with their investment projects in any sector of commerce or industry in development or intermediate areas. Since 1988, 416 small businesses have accepted offers of RSA totalling nearly £35 million.
REG are available to new and expanding businesses in development areas. Since 1988 667 small businesses have accepted offers of REG totalling over £5.8 million.
Both schemes are being vigorously promoted and funding is available to help eligible projects in future years.
Training and Enterprise Councils (TECs)
TECs will take over responsibility for the small firms service from 1 April 1991. The TECs will integrate the business advice and counselling services with their other enterprise roles to provide a cohesive local service. Six TECs are now operational and the Powys TEC will start operations on 2 April.
Both the development agencies will continue to offer an extensive range of help and advice to small and medium-sized businesses. Last November I announced the provision of additional public resources to the DBRW of £1 million for each of the next three years. This will enable them to commence their special rural action programme which will expand on the good work of the current Western Initiative and is aimed at spreading the business prosperity and confidence that has developed on the eastern side of the board's territory to the deeper, more remote rural areas throughout the region.
Both the DBRW and the WDA make available a grant for local enterprise agencies in Wales. There are now 24 enterprise agencies the operational areas of which cover virtually the whole of the Principality. Small businesses in both urban and rural areas will continue to be able to receive free confidential advice from the agencies, as well as advice on finances, training courses and workspace.