A government minister met children, students and businesspeople on a visit to learn about how banks are supporting business.

Economic secretary Andrea Leadsom visited a Santander branch yesterday to look at what banks are doing to help businesses.

She then met the owners of Harmony Nursery in Rayners Lane – a small business that has directly benefited from Santander support.

Ms Leadsom ended the tour with a visit to DLL Finance, an asset-based lender in Watford, and Harrow College’s Harrow on the Hill campus - accompanied by Harrow East MP Bob Blackman.

The minister said: “A key part of our long term economic plan is to ensure that small businesses are able to access the finance they need to grow and succeed.

“The best way to deliver this is to increase competition in the sector and remove the barriers to new sources of finance for SMEs.

“That is why it’s great to see first-hand how Britain’s traditional and alternative banking sector is expanding and enabling small businesses in Harrow and Watford to go from strength to strength.”

The visits were organised to witness how the financial services industry is helping to contribute to the wider economy and community.

In October last year, the government published draft legislation, in the Small Business Enterprise and Employment Bill, which introduced new measures to support SMEs get the finance they need to grow, including by helping them seek out alternative lenders if the big banks turn them down for loans.

The bill is expected to come into force in early 2015.