According to Vince Cable, Project Merlin had played a valuable role in the encouragement of lending to small businesses, but more work needs to be done on the provision of business finance. Although the Merlin deal was firmly defended by the business secretary, he also acknowledged that new strategies would be considered.
Last week, the chancellor George Osborne announced a plan for “credit easing”, which would involve the government purchasing corporate loans. The Merlin Project saw the agreement of the four main banks to increase lending to Small and Medium Enterprises in 2011 to £76 billion. Lord Oakeshott, spokesman for the Treasury, was just one of the critics who thought the credit easing plan was an admission of the Merlin Project failure. However, during an interview with The Guardian, Cable said:
“I think the Merlin agreement, contrary to some of the criticism, has been useful. But there is a deeper problem and that is why new mechanisms have to be looked at.”
The business secretary also admitted that there were issues regarding procedures when referring to the credit easing, but the appropriate measures would be put in place to ensure the money goes to the areas it is most needed.
A fund is also to be set up for high priority manufacturing with an investment of £140 million. Seven sites will receive a share of the funding to invest in development and research in areas like nuclear energy. Sheffield and Manchester universities will have a centre for study of nuclear.
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