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Venture Capital

Mr. Iain Wright: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what steps his Department is taking to increase access to venture capital for manufacturing firms in the North East. [77186]

Margaret Hodge: Manufacturing is still, and will continue to be, a very important part of the UK economy. The importance of manufacturing to the North East of England, and to the whole UK economy, is recognised in the Department of Trade and Industry’s Manufacturing Strategy. Launched in 2002 and reviewed in 2004, the strategy sets out the actions needed to create a high value, high skill manufacturing sector capable of introducing new products and processes into our economy, creating new markets, and delivering a huge boost to our growth and prosperity.

Government will continue to work with regional agencies, the business community, trade unions and others to ensure that the region (and the UK) makes the most of the opportunities to shift from low-cost/low added-value manufacturing to a sustainable, high added value, high skill, knowledge-led economy. We will continue to develop policies to achieve the right climate for business growth.

The UK is widely acknowledged as possessing a dynamic and efficient financial market, meeting the financing needs of the majority of businesses. Nevertheless, a small but important minority of innovative, growth-oriented small businesses continue to face difficulties in attracting the funding (particularly risk capital and equity in the £500,000 to £2 million region) that they need to realise their ambitions, providing a case for targeted Government intervention to assist markets where these difficulties create a significant barrier to enterprise and innovation, and hence to productivity growth. Over recent years, the Government have played an important role in ensuring that markets work effectively and that any gaps or weaknesses are addressed. The provision of publicly supported finance schemes (loan, mezzanine and equity) for small businesses has increased significantly over the last few years, increasing access to funding for manufacturing firms and others in order to invest in new technologies and improve productivity.

The Regional Venture Capital Fund (RVCF), an England-wide programme to provide risk capital in amounts up to £500,000, was created to support small growing companies, with £80 million of Government investment attracting a further £155 million from private sector investors. Capital North East (the North East RVCF) was launched in 2002, and the fund totalled £15 million.

The consultation paper “Bridging the finance gap—a consultation on improving access to growth capital for small businesses” published jointly by HM Treasury and SBS/DTI in April 2003 set out what more could be done to ensure that entrepreneurs have access to the finance they need to turn their ideas into thriving businesses. This led to the creation of Enterprise Capital Funds (ECFs), which will invest a combination of private and public money in small high-growth businesses seeking between £250,000 and £2 million of equity finance. Four funds have been approved to date, with the possibility of further funds being announced, and although not
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targeted specifically at the North East, they will be available to SMEs in the region. North East enterprise agency Entrust is a partner in the Seraphim Capital Fund, one of the successful funds announced last month, and will act to promote and co-ordinate applications from regional companies seeking growth funding.

Among schemes to support social enterprise and growth in disadvantaged areas, the Bridges Community Development Venture Fund is a £40 million, 50:50 partnership between Government and the Venture Capital industry. The fund is targeted at the most deprived 25 per cent. of areas of England and includes a number of North East wards. The Coalfields Enterprise Fund, launched by the Deputy Prime Minister in early 2004, is a venture capital fund specifically set up to finance growth-oriented companies and to encourage entrepreneurship in England’s former coalfield areas. Investments are on a 50:50 co-investment basis between £40,000 and £500,000.

The North East Equity Matching Fund (NEEMF) is an innovative and unique venture capital co-investment fund which aims to generate and increase Business Angel activity in the North East of England. NEEMF can match, on a pari passu basis, investments made by private investors or business angels who may not have sufficient resources to wholly fund the business or who wish to spread the risk. The investment range is from £25,000 to £100,000 in the first round with the capacity to aggregate up to £200,000 in a second round after nine months has elapsed. The total equity raised in the initial round must not exceed £250,000. Investments will usually be in the form of ordinary and/or preference shares and will be made at the same time as the private investment. The legal process is aimed at keeping time scales and costs to a minimum.

European funding in the form of the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) is also used to support Venture Capital and Loan Funds (VCLFs) in the region. The North East Co-Investment Fund (CoIF) and the North East Proof of Concept (PoC) Fund are both managed by NorthStar Equity Investors. The Proof of Concept Fund is a convertible loan fund, investing in technology and science based SMEs and in activities leading to SME formation spun-out from the research and business base in the North East of England. The Co-Investment Fund (COIF) is a £23 million venture capital fund that invests alongside private investors in high-growth technology-focused SMEs.

Equity is of course only a part of the overall funding picture and the North East region has also benefited from other publicly supported funds including the North East Investment Fund 3. Launched in 2003, this £18 million fund provides unsecured convertible loans for SMEs.

Women Entrepreneurs

Margaret Moran: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what steps the Government have taken to promote venture capital funds for women entrepreneurs. [77640]

Margaret Hodge: The ‘UK Survey of SME Finances 2004’ identified that gender was not an issue for female entrepreneurs accessing external finance. Among
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established businesses, women-led businesses seek the same levels of external finance and are just as likely as male-owned business to obtain the finance they sought.

While there is no universal gender issue regarding access to finance, depending upon their personal circumstances, some women do experience problems. In light of this, the SBS Women’s Stakeholder Group and RDAs supported a series of regional ‘Access to Finance’ roadshow events for female entrepreneurs between January and June 2006.

Youth Training

Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what regular liaison takes place between his Department and (a) other Government Departments and (b) non-governmental organisations on the training of young people. [77831]

Jim Fitzpatrick: The Department has regular contact with a number of Government Departments on the training of young people such as Department for Education and Skills, Department for Work and Pensions, HM Treasury, Department for Communities and Local Government, HM Revenue and Customs, Home Office, Department of Health, Ministry of Defence, Department for Environment and Rural Affairs, Cabinet Office and the devolved Administrations.

The Department is also represented on several bodies which cover this area:

The Department also has regular contact with a number of other organisations including a wide range of business organisations and science, technology, engineering and mathematics educational organisations, the Learning and Skills Council, Regional Development Agencies, Regional Skills Partnerships, Investors in People, Job Centre Plus, Qualifications and Curriculum Authority, Head Teachers and Industry, Enterprise Insight, National Council for Graduate Entrepreneurship, Sector Skills Councils and Sector Skills Development Agency.

Northern Ireland


Mr. Amess: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland how many therapeutic abortions were performed on women in Northern Ireland in each
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year since 1976, broken down by (a) age of the woman, (b) progress of the pregnancy and (c) health board area. [77495]

Paul Goggins: The Abortion Act 1967 does not extend to Northern Ireland. Consequently the termination of a pregnancy is not permitted except where necessary to save the life of the mother or where continuation of the pregnancy would involve risk of serious injury to her physical or mental health.

Due to the small numbers involved, information on medical abortions cannot be provided broken down by (a) age or by (c) health board of residence as requested without risking the possible identification of individuals.

Information on (b) the progress of the pregnancy is not available centrally.

The following table provides figures for the number of medical abortions recorded in Northern Ireland hospitals for each calendar year from 1995 (the earliest year for which robust data is available) to 2004 (the latest year for which information is available).

Medical abortions























Source: Hospital Inpatients System

Bilingual Translation

Lady Hermon: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland how much it cost to provide bilingual translation services in the Department of (a) Education and (b) Health Social Services and Public Safety in Northern Ireland in each of the last five years. [76415]

Maria Eagle: The information is as follows.

The costs incurred by the Department of Education for translations of documents in the last five are as follows:












(1) Figure for 2005-06 is not final due to outstanding invoices.

The costs incurred by the Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety for translations of documents in the last five years are as follows:

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Bonfire Safety

Mrs. Iris Robinson: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what estimate he has made of the number of people who have suffered major burns in the run-up to the bonfire season in Northern Ireland in each of the last three years; and if he will make a statement. [77343]

Paul Goggins: The following table details the number of admissions to hospital with a primary or secondary diagnosis of burns for each month during 2004-05 (the latest year for which data is available). For the purpose of this answer, any burn that required hospital admission has been deemed a major burn.

It should be noted that any individual could have been admitted to hospital more than once over the course of a year and would therefore be counted more than once in the figures.

Month of admission Admissions( 1) due to burns

April 2004


May 2004


June 2004


July 2004


August 2004


September 2004


October 2004


November 2004


December 2004


January 2005


February 2005


March 2005




(1) Deaths and Discharges are used as an approximation to admissions.
Hospital Inpatients System DHSS&PS.

The NI Fire and Rescue Service (NIFRS) is a member of an inter-agency Working Group on Bonfires. This group, which includes representatives from a wide range of statutory bodies, aims to educate people on the dangers of bonfires and to give advice on how to act safely around them. The NIFRS also works closely with Community Safety Partnerships on issues such as this.

Brain Gym

Mr. Lidington: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what the cost to public funds was of implementing the ‘brain gym’ programme in Northern Ireland’s schools in 2005-06. [74693]

Maria Eagle: The Regional Training Unit (RTU) which provides training to the education sector in
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Northern Ireland offers ‘brain gym’ training through its summer school programme. In 2005-06 the cost of RTU training from public funds was £5,920.00. None of the education and library boards directly funded the ‘brain gym’ programme in Northern Ireland’s schools in 2005-06. Individual schools may purchase training from their delegated budgets, but to obtain details of any such expenditure on ‘brain gym’ expenditure could be gathered only at disproportionate cost.

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