MPs slam government over hi-tech funding scheme.

A Labour-dominated committee has clashed with the government over the fudging of figures for a grant scheme for small hi-tech companies. The Trade and Industry Department announced in March that the Smart scheme had been given a £100m boost. It said that an extra £26m – a 32% increase – would mean that there would be £100m available for new Smart projects in the next three years. But the Trade and Industry Committee reported that the 1999 departmental report gave no forward figures for funding Smart beyond £20.39m for 1999/2000. The government reply to the committee said its figures were ‘accurate’ unlike the MPs’. This week, however, they hit back: ‘The reply from the government makes no reference to that figure; if it was simply wrong as printed in the departmental report, we would have hoped the opportunity would have been taken to put the record straight.’ The MPs went on to criticise the ‘methodology’ used to calculate spending totals. The committee’s rebuttal of the government reply concluded: ‘We regret that the government should have sought to criticise us in discourteous terms for using inaccurate figures for which the DTI’s annual report to parliament was the principal source.’

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