Page last updated at 15:39 GMT, Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Joint Finance and Enterprise Committee

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The problems of small and medium-sized businesses (SMEs) were at the core of a joint meeting of the finance and enterprise committees, on 17 November 2010.

Eric Leenders of the British Bankers' Association outlined the recommendations of the Business Finance Taskforce regarding lending to small businesses.

The task force consists of senior representatives from the UK's six biggest banks.

Mr Leenders said the task force report identified a lack of confidence as the most significant issue in helping small and medium sized companies access the finance they need.

The SDLP's Alban Maginess spoke of disappointment that the banks were not lending in the SME sector.

Mr Leenders said research showed obtaining finance was not a particular problem. Pricing and higher levels of scrutiny were of greater note.

David McNarry of the UUP raised the issue of Northern Ireland's four main churches whose leaders had spoken about people driven to suicide by financial difficulties.

Mr McNarry said he had asked for the bankers' association to appear before the joint committee because representatives of Northern Ireland's banks had been "useless" when they had given evidence.

"You are high-powered moneylenders. You have gambled with our money and you have lost it," he said.

Mr Leenders said bankers were "never going to be the most popular sector on the block" but that did not mean that they did not act with integrity.

Finance committee membership

Enterprise committee membership

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