Business growth plan 'not enough' without bank help

Image caption,
Business Secretary Vince Cable accepts there is more to be done to help business

The government's growth strategy will have little effect without the support of the banks, a report by MPs has said.

It says deals already struck were a step in the right direction, but there are still no concrete signs business is getting the access to capital it needs.

The cross-party Business, Innovation and Skills Committee says the different proposals to promote growth do not add up to a "comprehensive strategy".

Business Secretary Vince Cable says he accepts there is more to be done.

But he said the government did have a cohesive strategy.

"We had an agreement last week with the banks on improving bank lending to businesses, we've put in place now a set of policies to promote apprenticeships, we announced last week a strategy for trade," Mr Cable told the BBC.

"All the key elements of growth are there. They are joined up."

But he added: "We know there is more to be done.

"That's why we are currently working closely with business on the growth review to promote a new economic dynamism by removing barriers and putting the private sector first when it comes to decisions on tax, regulation and spending."

Jury out

The report is the committee's initial assessment of the government's plans to support UK industry and growth.

The committee says the banks' role in providing finance to business is crucial to the success of the economy and a key theme in its report.

The report says the government's Project Merlin agreement between it and the banks was a step in the right direction, but it had not solved the issue of lending and the "jury will remain out until it delivers real benefits to industry".

It says the government has no clear way of measuring the performance of its policies, and that a strong economy could hide its failures, while a poorly performing environment could risk overshadowing otherwise "excellent strategies or interventions".

"There is a gap between government rhetoric on economic growth and the Business Department delivery as yet in a number of areas," said Labour's Adrian Bailey, chairman of the committee.

"And perhaps worryingly there's no measures of delivery... evidence that banks are lending more - both statistical and anecdotal from representatives from the business community.

"Part of the problem is the lack of transparency [on lending targets]. There has to be evidence that net bank lending is increasing for small businesses. For that to be evident the banks and the government have to publish the figures that demonstrate that."

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