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Regional Growth Fund

Business, Innovation and Skills – in the House of Commons at 10:30 am on 13th January 2011.

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Photo of Ian Austin Ian Austin Shadow Minister (Culture, Media and Sport) 10:30 am, 13th January 2011

When he expects the independent advisory panel to meet to consider applications to the regional growth fund.

Photo of Mark Prisk Mark Prisk The Minister of State, Department for Business, Innovation and Skills

The advisory panel is currently expected to meet in late February to consider applications from the first bidding round to the fund-once, of course, the bids have been processed.

Photo of Ian Austin Ian Austin Shadow Minister (Culture, Media and Sport)

When the panel meets, will the Minister ensure that the west midlands, hit hardest during the downturn and taking the longest to recover, gets the greatest help from the fund? Does he accept that the fantastic work that has been put in by business men in the black country to get our local enterprise partnership off the ground will be seriously hampered if they do not get the funds they need from the regional growth fund?

Photo of Mark Prisk Mark Prisk The Minister of State, Department for Business, Innovation and Skills

I very much welcome the work that has been undertaken by businesses in the black country, and I pay tribute to them for that. Of course, the regional growth fund has to be based on merit, because it needs to be focused on making sure that the best cases come forward. Like the hon. Gentleman, I suspect that some excellent examples will come forward from his area, and from the west midlands as a whole. Cases must be judged on merit alone.

Photo of Margot James Margot James Conservative, Stourbridge

The Black Country Reinvestment Society has a very successful record in arranging loans to micro-businesses and small and medium-sized enterprises across the black country. Does the Minister agree that a good way of getting regional growth fund money to small businesses is by enabling grants from the RGF to investment co-operatives such as the BCRS?

Photo of Mark Prisk Mark Prisk The Minister of State, Department for Business, Innovation and Skills

I strongly agree with my hon. Friend, who is also very expert in this area. We can do this not only through the regional growth fund but by ensuring that we work through, for example, the enterprise finance guarantee, so that small institutions such as community development finance institutions are able to participate, and the micro-loans to which she refers can be extended. I have changed the rules; they can now get involved.