Select Committee on Trade and Industry Thirteenth Report


The Trade and Industry Committee has agreed to the following Report:—



1. Over the lifetime of this Parliament, we have followed a number of strands of the Government's enterprise policy, from our recommendation in 1997 that Regional Selective Assistance needed to be reviewed and modernised[1] to our Report earlier this year on the Department of Trade and Industry: Role, Objectives and Targets.[2] There have been a number of white papers, policy announcements, initiatives, programmes and projects. From London, we find it difficult to assess what is really happening at local level as a result of all this activity. DTI Ministers and officials must feel the same. The last few years have also seen changes in the political and administrative landscape:

  • The introduction of Regional Development Agencies (RDAs), with increasing influence and expenditure, and some Regional Assemblies;
  • The introduction of the Small Business Service and the re-invention of Business Links;
  • The replacement of Training and Enterprise Councils with Learning and Skills Councils;
  • The reshaping of regional Government Offices.

2. We therefore decided in late 2000 to undertake at least a preliminary inquiry into the regional and local impact of DTI enterprise initiatives, looking in particular at programmes for which DTI is primarily responsible, and the enterprise role of RDAs. Since then, plans have been announced for RDAs to be given more funds for enterprise promotion, and more freedom to spend them. During our discussions we realised it would be useful to hear formal oral evidence from the Small Business Service (SBS). We think in future an annual evidence session with the SBS would be useful to our successor Committees.

3. We visited the South West of England on 29-30 January 2001, the North East on 27-28 February and the East Midlands on 5 March. In each region we held meetings with the Government Office, the Regional Development Agency and a variety of other organisations and companies, including local universities. In order to gain a comparative insight into the very different structure of economic development agencies in Scotland, on 23-24 April we visited Glasgow, Stirling and Edinburgh for meetings with Scottish Enterprise, the local enterprise company in Forth Valley, our sister Committee in the Scottish Parliament and university representatives at Glasgow and Heriot-Watt. We are very grateful to all the people we met and who provided us with information during these visits. On 2 May we took oral evidence from David Irwin, Chief Executive of the Small Business Service, Peter Waller, Deputy Chief Executive and Hâf Merrifield, Director of Local Network Development. We thank all those who provided evidence. We do not intend to make recommendations in this preliminary Report, nor do we expect a Government Response. Our prime purpose in this Report is to record some of our impressions and to identify issues to which those engaged in the area may wish to react to and which our successors may wish to pursue in the next Parliament.

1  Co-ordination of Inward Investment, First Report, Session 1997-98, HC 355, (hereafter HC 355), para 44.  Back

2  The Department of Trade and Industry: Role, Objectives and Targets, Second Report, Session 2000-01, HC 140 (hereafter HC 140); Government Observations on the First and Second Reports from the Trade and Industry Committee (Session 2000-01) on the work of the Committee in the 1997 Parliament and the Department of Trade and Industry: Role, Objectives and Targets, Third Special Report, Session 2000-01, HC 407 Back

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