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I must congratulate my hon. Friend Dr Lee on his excellent maiden speech, with which I agreed in every respect. I also congratulate Julie Hilling on her excellent maiden speech, which was entertaining as well as informative.
I am grateful for the opportunity to contribute to this important debate on support for industry, but we cannot debate support for industry in a vacuum. I do not want to dwell on the past, but none the less we want to learn from it. A lot of the Opposition's schemes for supporting business when they were in office had a rather half-hearted effect, at best. Many of the schemes, such as the capital enterprise fund, were only subscribed to by 50%. The trade credit insurance fund, which had an original budget of £5 billion, only had a take-up of less than £20 million. Apprenticeships have been hard to fill. A lot of the problems with these schemes are caused by low awareness among industry, eligibility criteria that are far too complex and rule out far too many worthy applicants, and a bureaucracy that small enterprises simply cannot cut through.
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