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Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, I hesitate to tread in the delicate area of the relationship between Church and state. I think I am safe in saying that it would be possible for churches and cathedrals to make applications under millennium funding.

The Earl of Carlisle: My Lords, is the Minister aware that the 1998 UK Visitor Attraction Survey, published today, indicates that over a five-year period attendance at cultural attractions for which there was a charge fell by over 1.1 per cent. and attendance at non-charging attractions rose by 4.1 per cent? In view of those statistics, which I believe to be accurate, will the Minister and his department revise the Answer that he gave to the noble Earl, Lord Clancarty?

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, I have no reason to disbelieve the figures quoted by the noble Earl, although he is ahead of me in knowing what has been published today. I do not think that those modest differences would justify revision of my Answer. We have preserved free access to a considerable number of museums and galleries and are providing extra funding to those which charge.

Lord Jenkins of Putney: My Lords, does my noble friend agree that charging for admission and receiving government funding should be regarded as alternatives and museums should be able to choose one or the other?

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Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, my noble friend's proposition would break the basis of my previous answers. It is for the trustees to make their own decisions. It is, of course, for the Government to make such contribution to museums and galleries as is possible within spending limits.

Lord Skidelsky: My Lords, I note what the Minister says about preserving access to some collections. Does he not admit that, when in opposition, Labour promised to preserve free access to all national collections but that since it has been in government it has reneged on that promise by setting up a spending review dealing with general matters of access, in addition to free access, and by making ad hoc grants to particular collections through raiding National Lottery money, all because it realised that it had rashly made a promise which it could not fulfil?

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, no, I do not agree that that is what we said before the election. We said that access would be a cornerstone of our cultural policy and that young people, unemployed people and pensioners should not be unable to enjoy our national treasures. But we thought then, and we think now, that access is a good deal more than admission charges, important though they are.

Lord McNally: My Lords, when Ministers decide on allocation of public money to museums, is any thought given to rationalisation of the pattern of museums in this country to prevent overspending on administration and other charges?

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: Yes, my Lords. This is one of the subjects of our departmental spending review, to which I referred, the results of which will be announced in the summer. We are thinking more in terms of rationalisation of collections, by agreement with the trustees concerned, but if the noble Lord has any more radical thoughts I am sure that we would listen to them.

Lord Annan: My Lords, following on the question raised by the noble Baroness, Lady Trumpington, I hope that there would be no attempt, for example, to stop King's College, Cambridge, charging for admission to the chapel. The roof of the chapel, which is leaded, is melting after four centuries of sunshine and will have to be replaced, at enormous cost. I very much hope that there will be no kind of interference, as the money is needed very badly.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, I refused to be tempted into the delicate area of relationships between Church and state; even more I refuse to be tempted into the delicate area of the relationship between state and not only the University of Cambridge but individual colleges of the University of Cambridge--or indeed into issues of global warming, to which the noble Lord, Lord Annan, appears to be alluding. No, my Lords, we have no power, nor is it our intention, to intervene.

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UK Business: Mentoring Services

2.54 p.m.

Lord Randall of St. Budeaux asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What plans they have to encourage the development of mentoring services for new small businesses.

Lord Haskel: My Lords, the Government believe that mentoring can play a useful part in improving the competitiveness of UK business. Together with the DTI and private sector support, mentoring and small and medium enterprise group networking is being piloted through Business Links in the form of the Business Bridge programme. Mentoring also takes place in business clubs and other networks, and early indications are that the impact of Business Bridge on small and medium size enterprises is encouraging. Perhaps I may take this opportunity to thank those experienced businessmen who give their time so generously to these schemes.

Lord Randall of St. Budeaux: My Lords, I thank my noble friend for that Answer. Does he not agree that experience from the Prince's Trust and other organisations shows enormous benefits to small businesses in terms of both their productivity and their survival? Does he not agree that the Government should get moving and go beyond pilot schemes and encourage the establishment of universal mentoring services in the United Kingdom? In providing such services, should the Government not give serious consideration to exploiting the large pool of experience to be found in business people?

Lord Haskel: My Lords, my noble friend makes a very good point at the end of his question, and I think he makes it in an appropriate place. There is already a good deal of local mentoring activity within the business support community involving retired people working with fledgling businesses. Yes, the Prince's Youth Business Trust uses a wide range of local people to act as business advisers, or mentors, many of whom are retired. There are, as well, business angels, whom one could perhaps describe as mentors with money. They are often retired business people. I see the Government's role as helping to facilitate such good practice rather than setting up a new national scheme, which might adversely affect the flexibility or focus of existing local activity.

Lord Mason of Barnsley: My Lords, is my noble friend aware that a national mentoring service exists within the Prince's Youth Business Trust? That is why the PYBT is so successful. Mentors and advisers have been established for the past 11 years. Every time the Prince's Youth Business Trust launches a new business, that business has an adviser or a mentor attached to it. That is why 65 per cent. of the businesses that have been launched are still trading after more than three years. Soon the PYBT will be linked to the Government under the New Deal and all that experience will be available to the Government.

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Lord Haskel: My Lords, I thank my noble friend for his comment. I agree with him entirely. A depressingly high percentage of small businesses fail to survive for more than three years, but, as my noble friend said, the percentage of businesses operating under the Prince's Youth Business Trust which survive for more than three years is considerably higher.

Baroness Miller of Hendon: My Lords, can the Minister tell us what advice the Government would give to these mentoring services, organisations or retired business people to help them to advise the many small family businesses in this country, particularly in the retail area, which have built their success on the help of the family and which now, because the Government are refusing to exempt spouses, families and so on, from the national minimum wage will face bankruptcy rather than having the support and success they have had in the past?

Lord Haskel: My Lords, I do not agree with the noble Baroness. I believe that the national minimum wage will help small businesses, including small family businesses. I believe they will find that the introduction of the national minimum wage will bring their operations on to a more businesslike basis.

Lord Weatherill: My Lords, as a trustee of the Prince's Youth Business Trust, I thank the noble Lords, Lord Randall, and Lord Mason, for mentioning the PYBT. It may be of interest to the House to know that these businesses are set up for an average of £2,500, which is infinitely less than the cost of keeping a person on the unemployment register.

Lord Haskel: My Lords, the Government are well aware of the success of the Prince's Youth Business Trust in establishing businesses on a very small amount of money. We congratulate the trust on its work.

Lord Peyton of Yeovil: My Lords, I thought I heard the noble Lord say that he thought the national minimum wage would help small businesses. Will he be kind enough to shed a little light on that and say how he thinks it will happen?

Lord Haskel: My Lords, I had in mind the fact that in many cases small businesses do not invest in new machinery and new technology because they can pay people much lower wages. If employers pay a better wage, investment in the company is often increased and the prosperity of the business increases.

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