A recent study carried out by my Department indicated that the annual rate of supply of small workshops has probably tripled since the introduction of the 100 per cent. industrial building allowance for small industrial premises in 1980. There remains a shortage generally of the very small units, under 1,250 sq. ft. and this allowance has been extended for another two years for those units. In assisted areas of England where this tax allowance has failed to stimulate the supply of small premises by private developers, the English Industrial Estates Coporation has been very active with a substantial building programme of small units.
I am grateful to my hon. Friend for that reply and for the large amount of work that he has done to ensure that we produce some small industrial units. Is he convinced that there is enough incentive for large companies which have large premises which they no longer wish to use to convert those premises to small units? Furthermore, is he satisfied that local authorities are giving enough priority to ensuring that small units are created when they are producing their development plans for planning purposes?
First, it is open to large firms to sell redundant premises and for developers to take advantage of the industrial building allowance to make the conversions. That is happening in a number of cases. Secondly, many local authorities are doing a considerable amount in this area, but they can help small firms by being constructive in the way in which they approach applications for planning permission.
Will the Minister take account of the fact that, for example, in South-West Durham, which does not attract special development status or even development area status now, the English Industrial Estates Corporation is not doing very much by way of providing small workshop space? Will he examine a scheme, which the local authorities may put to him, for granting them money to adapt existing redundant premises to create small workshop space?
The English Industrial Estates Corporation is doing a good deal. There is a heavy emphasis now on small units in its programme. It has built a substantial number and has a substantial number planned for the future. It is interesting to note that a great deal of that is now being provided through private sector finance.
I have not yet seen the details of the individual scheme to which the hon. Gentleman refers, so I cannot comment until he lets me have them.
Is my hon. Friend not concerned about the cost of small advance factory units? For example, is he aware that such units provided under the auspices of the Council for Small Industries in Rural Areas in my constituency could be built for substantially less if they were built to lower but equally acceptable specifications than are currently demanded by his Department?
COSIRA operates within another Department, but I am in constant touch with the chairman of COSIRA and the Development Commission. If my hon. Friend will let me have details, I should be prepared to look into them with the chairman.
Does the Minister acknowledge that Coventry, with its crumbling industrial situation, is worried, not about the availability, but about the cost of premises? The Minister is responsible for the small business area. When businesses are to be relocated and they are offered new units, generally speaking such premises are beyond the prices that small businesses can afford. The Minister should pay some attention to this matter. When small businesses are to be relocated, they should be given some assistance to go into the properties that are available.
That is certainly not the case with the many developments that I have seen. If the hon. Gentleman is thinking in particular about people who are starting up in business—often uncertain about their future and how business will go—licences are an appropriate way of providing help at that stage. I have seen developments in the West Midlands along those lines.