I will start by welcoming you to the Chair, Sir Roger, and congratulating my hon. Friend Guto Bebb on securing this important debate. I will try to address the concerns raised, and I thank all hon. Members for their contributions in this debate.
SMEs are a vital part of the UK economy; they contribute significantly to economic growth. Access to finance is important for funding investment, ensuring businesses reach their full potential, and for facilitating new business start-ups. As hon. Members who have contributed to today’s debate have made clear, it is essential that our banking system works in the interests of SMEs and treats them fairly.
I will turn specifically to the report. Lawrence Tomlinson is one of BIS’s two entrepreneurs in residence. His appointment was made by BIS officials, not by Ministers, following an open competition for which there were more than 200 applicants. Mr Tomlinson is independent of BIS, but, as an entrepreneur in residence, he has the scope to explore and raise matters that he regards as important to SMEs. His report was prepared in that context, so it was not commissioned by the Department or by Ministers. It was a personal report by Mr Tomlinson; it is not a Government report.
I will deal with the questions asked by Toby Perkins, which were all in the same vein. He referred to the report coming from the heart of Government, so it is worth restating that this is a personal report by Mr Tomlinson. It is not a Government report, so Mr Tomlinson was free to publish whatever he saw fit. No Ministers or officials were involved. What was eventually published by Mr Tomlinson was entirely his own choice. It was also his own choice whether to involve the banks that he refers to in the report and what resources he wanted to use.