Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 5:09 pm on 25 January 2012.

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Photo of Mark Prisk Mark Prisk The Minister of State, Department for Business, Innovation and Skills 5:09, 25 January 2012

The Small Business Economic Forum regularly meets the small business organisations and the banks. We will ask it for that kind of breakdown, so that we can get a better understanding of the scale of micro, small and medium. It is important.

I agree with my hon. Friend that some of those proposals do not necessarily reach the smallest businesses. That is why we have supported the community development finance institutions. Working through the regional growth fund, we have put together a package in response to an application, so that some £30 million of taxpayers’ money can unlock something like £60 million of lending. The money involved is very often the several thousands of pounds that a micro-business needs to make the difference between a good idea that becomes a profitable venture, and a good idea that remains just a good idea. It is an important area and very often it is an area where, frankly, retail banking struggles to justify the work involved to deal with such loans, and CDFIs are well placed to fill that gap.

In finance terms, the business angels are a crucial part of this equation. When we think of micros, we tend to focus simply on the type of lending—whether that is loans, credit cards or whatever—that the smallest of enterprises engage in. But I am a strong believer that, alongside the larger venture capital funds, we need to ensure that business angels are encouraged. That is why we have put together a co-investment fund of £50 million, to start to grow that market substantially.