Small Businesses (Information Technology)

Oral Answers to Questions — Trade and Industry – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 31st July 1997.

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Photo of Ian Gibson Ian Gibson Labour, Norwich North 12:00 am, 31st July 1997

To ask the President of the Board of Trade what her Department's policy is towards improving access to information technology for small and medium businesses.[10036]

Photo of Mrs Barbara Roche Mrs Barbara Roche Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Small Firms, Trade and Industry), Department of Trade and Industry

Many recent studies have emphasised the importance of new technologies to the competitiveness of smaller firms. Many people—in Government, in business support organisations and in the private sector—have a role in getting that message across. Within Government, we are pressing ahead with our support for the information society initiative programme for business, which places particular emphasis on offering access and awareness opportunities for small and medium enterprises at locations throughout the UK.

Photo of Ian Gibson Ian Gibson Labour, Norwich North

Clearly, the Government are progressing many information technology initiatives, which will benefit small and medium businesses, including the Budget's doubling of tax credits for capital investment. What does the Minister make of a small business that, on its web site, admits to managerial disputes and the loss of confidence of its shareholders and of its public, a business whose managing director directs his market research from the back of a taxi in Newcastle airport? It is recorded on the web that that business is the Conservative party.

Photo of Mrs Barbara Roche Mrs Barbara Roche Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Small Firms, Trade and Industry), Department of Trade and Industry

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for bringing that matter to my attention, but, in the end-of-term spirit, perhaps it is not my role to intrude on private and deep personal grief.

Photo of Owen Paterson Owen Paterson Conservative, North Shropshire

If the Government wish to improve information technology in small and medium businesses, would it not be a good idea if Ministers visited businesses? According to a written answer from the President of the Board of Trade, as of 23 July, in nearly three months in government, three of her Ministers—one of whom was the Minister for Trade and Competitiveness in Europe—had not visited a single business. That is a disgrace.

Photo of Mrs Barbara Roche Mrs Barbara Roche Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Small Firms, Trade and Industry), Department of Trade and Industry

I appreciate that the hon. Gentleman is new to the House, but he really must get his facts correct. What is true is that the Conservative party cannot stand the fact that the Labour Government have the confidence of the business community, which the previous Government had lost totally.