An evening with Mark Prisk MP, Minister of State at the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills

Mark Prisk MP, who was active in the Little Venice Ward in his early political career, recently returned to address Conservatives at a Ward event. He explained some of the Government’s achievements and thinking, particularly in his areas of responsibility.

The legacy of the Labour Government means that the path ahead will not be easy because of the pressing need to reduce the nation’s deficit. However, important measures have already been put in place to help improve the long-term outlook for business, and especially small and medium-sized companies. Action has been taken on lowering and simplifying corporate taxes; a crackdown on unnecessary red tape; and a deal with banks to boost access to loans. Other positive moves have included:

• seeking to accelerate the commercialisation of new technologies, by investing £200 million in Technology and Innovation Centres.

• boosting competitiveness with new funding for the well-respected Manufacturing Advisory Service.

• backing small and medium-sized businesses seeking to export more, by establishing an Export Enterprise Finance Guarantee scheme, which will underwrite finance worth up to £1 million for individual firms.

Reform of the business support landscape will give small and medium-sized enterprises access to online business information and tools specific to their needs. This will include a public procurement ‘contracts finder’, a business tax tool enabling firms to keep abreast of their tax position, clearer information on regulation, and new training services and online tools for  use in the office, or on the move. A new telephone contact centre will assist the 24 per cent of businesses that are not online.

Action is being taken to help as many people as possible to start their own businesses.  A New Enterprise Allowance will help unemployed people to become self-employed. One aim is to lessen the number of people put off making the transition by a fear of being worse off working than not working. An online business start-up service will deliver one-click company registration. Plans are also in hand to make it easier to start a business from home.

For the first time in the UK, there will be a single, integrated network of over 40,000 experienced business mentors, providing practical advice and contacts for other businesses, all based on hands-on experience. In addition, a new programme – ‘Business Coaching for Growth’ – will focus on established small and medium-sized businesses with the potential to grow employment or turnover by 20% or more per annum over three years.

Considerable investment will take place to ensure the availability of super-fast broadband in the UK.

The Department also aims to encourage industry to educate students about the potential of manufacturing careers. There is a common misconception that engineers  

are poorly paid when compared to other attractive career choices, such as accounting or finance, and the Government is working to challenge this. Mark Prisk’s address was followed by a lively Q & A and discussion period, in which he responded ably and frankly on a wide range of issues.

NB: The above comment is written in good faith by Barbara Arzymanow, Chairman of Little Venice Ward Conservatives, who tweets @barbararesearch. It is based on her memory and notes and is not a transcript of what was said. It should not be relied upon as a wholly accurate or complete summary of the Minister’s address or of Government policy. The above material is much shorter than the original address and may be in a different order.