Does my hon. Friend have plans to extend the local enterprise agency grants scheme, operating during the past year — [HON MEMBERS: "Reading."] Does my hon. Friend propose to extend the LEAG scheme to embrace larger and perhaps more successful local enterprise agencies, such as the Medway enterprise agency? [Interruption.] Does my hon. Friend not think that those larger agencies may also benefit by being taken into the LEAG scheme and that that may catalyse the creation of even more new jobs?
The local enterprise agency grants scheme was not introduced to help and support the more successful enterprise agencies, such as the one in the Medway, which has an excellent reputation and to which I am happy to pay tribute. If we had done that, we might have been in danger of supporting the London enterprise agency, which has a vast number of sponsors. We had to draw the line somewhere. Although I am happy to pay tribute to the enterprise agency and its director, we cannot help in the immediate future. However, we shall continue to monitor the position.
Does the Minister accept that the development of enterprise agencies and similar organisations is a crucial way to develop small businesses further? I know that he is to visit Aberdeen on Monday to open the new offices of the Aberdeen enterprise trust. Will he acknowledge that these agencies have identified the need for finance to be pulled in behind them in a way which caters for the needs of small businesses, particularly for venture capital?
The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right, and I am glad that the enterprise agency movement is playing a part in this. I am impressed at the way in which some enterprise agencies are joining together to form local business expansion scheme funds. Some enterprise agencies are acting as marriage brokers, trying to indentify investors and target companies. I hope to see that develop, particularly in Aberdeen.
Is my hon. Friend aware that since the west Norfolk enterprise agency was set up it has overseen more than 600 individual clients, and that of those more than 70 have set up businesses of their own creating more than 100 new jobs? Is that not a perfect example of the way in which local enterprise agencies can inject new vigour into a community?
I am bound to say that Question Time would not be the same if my hon. Friend did not have the opportunity to pay tribute to his local enterprise agency, which he played a significant part in forming in the first place. I am impressed with the success of that enterprise, particularly as it has been formed for only a relatively short time.