BEFORE I became an MP I worked with businesses and my job was to help them grow.

Often these were small or medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). In many cases they were little more than a good idea which just needed the right conditions to become something great.

Apart from the initial idea, they needed the right people, the right infrastructure - like good roads and/or broadband - and they needed capital, the pot of money that would pumpprime a project in the tricky early stages.

In many cases, good business ideas come to nothing because they are lacking in one of these essentials. My job before entering politics was to make sure they had that capital – and guidance. Now I’m working to ensure all those conditions to help businesses grow are in place.

Last week I was hugely encouraged to visit small business – the Yorkshire Dales Distillery at Colburn - which is just one year old but growing nicely. Firstly, the idea is great. Taking advantage of the new enthusiasm for gin, ex-Serviceman Tony Brotherton and his wife Sarah are making a truly local range of spirits using pure Swaledale water and botanicals – the stuff that delivers the different flavours – such as heather and berries and honey from their home village just down the road in Tunstall.

Secondly, the infrastructure is good, thanks to the newlyopened £380m upgraded A1 motorway on their doorstep and decent broadband on the Walkerville Industrial Estate where they are based.

And thirdly, they have had help with capital in successfully applying for a Governmentbacked Start Up Loan. The money is being used to help with the initial costs of taking on more staff – including Service veterans and apprentices - and building their stocks of their craft premium spirits as sales grow.

The importance of businesses like this cannot be underestimated.

Small and medium size enterprises are the backbone of our local economy and they drive our prosperity across the country too. They account for 60 per cent of private sector employment in this country. What is more, four in five people moving from unemployment into meaningful work do so by joining a small or medium-sized business.

Today, eight per cent of young people are considering starting their own business. They have an enthusiasm for new ideas, many of them have enormous potential, they just need a legup to get established.

The Start-Up loan the Brothertons have taken up is one of 50,000 granted around the UK in a Government-funded scheme totalling £350m so far.

All owners or partners in a business can individually apply for up to £25,000 each, with a maximum of £100,000 available per business. The loan is repayable at a favourable rate of interest (six per cent) compared to a commercial bank. In many instances the start-up loan is available when a bank would not lend.

Each loan comes with a year’s free mentoring advice and there is also help available before the loan is even applied for with business planning and cash flow forecasting. The loan is unsecured so there is no need to put up an assets or guarantor to support the application I know there are lots of other enterprising ideas out there.

And there is help to get you started. See