To ask the Secretary of State what steps his Department is taking to support small and medium-sized enterprises.
British Business Bank programmes are supporting £3.4 billion of finance to almost 60,000 businesses. Growth hubs and the business support helpline provide information and guidance. In the hon. Lady’s area, the Liverpool city region growth hub has engaged and supported over 4,550 businesses, and I am leading a taskforce to identify opportunities to support SME growth.
The Government’s delay in giving out the business rate relief they announced in the spring Budget caused considerable suffering to thousands of businesses across the country. Measures such as the introduction of the staircase tax have also caused considerable tax increases for thousands of businesses across the country. Confidence has fallen back in the second quarter. The chairman of the Federation of Small Businesses has said—
Order. This is a most interesting essay, for which unfortunately we do not have time. What I am looking for from the hon. Lady—I am sure she will gratify the House—is a short question with a question mark at the end of it.
The hon. Lady raises very important issues, and I have met the chairman of the FSB to discuss business rates. Some of her questions should really be directed to my right hon. Friend he Chancellor, but in the meantime let me say that there has been a cap on rates increases, and small business rate relief will mean that bills will not increase by more than £50 per month for the first year. There has also been a £300 million local authority fund to provide discretionary relief on business rates, and I would encourage the hon. Lady to pressurise her council for the full benefit thereof.
The hon. Gentleman is not called “pithy Pursglove” for nothing; I am sure we will have a very succinct question from him.
One way that this Government have very effectively supported SMEs is through the establishment of new enterprise zones. Are Ministers keeping under review the possibility of another round of them becoming available?
I agree with my hon. Friend: enterprise zones have for the most part been a huge success in attracting investment and providing new jobs. We will keep in mind any future growth in the number of enterprise zones; we do not currently have any plans, but they have been a success and we will keep them under review.