I propose to take Questions Nos. 460 and 465 together.
The business expansion scheme – BES – was introduced in 1984 and is scheduled to operate until 5 April 2001.
It is a tax-based incentive designed to stimulate investment in small unquoted businesses. The scheme provides individuals with tax relief in respect of investment in certain activities such as manufacturing, certain tourism activities and internationally traded services.
As the Deputies will be aware, the 1998 Finance Act reduced the amount that a company could raise under the BES from £1 million to £250,000. The limit was reduced to refocus the relief on start-up/smaller companies which may find it hard to raise finance elsewhere. This was the original intention of the BES. It was also done to reduce the growing cost of the relief to the Exchequer.
The BES has been reviewed on a number of occasions most recently in 1998 for the 1999 budget and copies of the review paper (TSG 98/34) have been placed in the Oireachtas library. It is also available on the Department's website (www.irlgov.ie/finance).
The question of extending or amending the BES will be considered in the context of preparations for the forthcoming budget and Finance Bill and I will bear in mind the comments of the Deputies in this matter.