ENTREPRENEURS from the St Albans area heard business minister Lord Mandelson insist that there are positive signs for the economy over an early morning fry-up today.

Business leaders from across south and west Hertfordshire met for breakfast this morning at the Watford YMCA, where they heard from the Secretary of State for Business.

Arriving in Watford shortly before 8am, Lord Mandelson addressed the meeting and talked up the economy, promising it was showing signs of recovery.

He told the 100- strong crowd: “I am not going come here and spout about green shoots – that just gets politicians into trouble. ,p> “But I do see, if not green shoots, then green seedlings which have been planted and are germinating.”

He said the Government was committed to helping provide young people with employment opportunities and making sure “another generation does not become attached to unemployment".

And while backing the Chancellor's decision to raise the top level of tax to 50p in every pound, he said: “I am not telling you it was easy, or welcome, or something we did with relish.”

He did, however, say it was something 99 per cent of the population would welcome.

The former New Labour spin doctor also defended the Government's decision to nationalise banks rather than let them go bust.

He said the decision by the US Government to allow the Lehman Brothers bank to go bankrupt had caused “catastrophic consequences”, promising the UK was not willing to allow the same to happen.

Lord Mandelson said the Government would attempt to do more in the future to help fresh businesses, particularly those developing bio-technologies and new technological advances.

He finished his speech by saying businesses should feel confident about the future, urging them to capitalise on the opportunities of a changing economy.

He said: “It is difficult - we are coming through it, we are going to see the other side of this recession, but in the mean time we must look to the future and be confident about the future.”

The business breakfast was organised by the Watford and West Hertfordshire Chamber of Commerce, together with Watford MP Claire Ward and staff at the YMCA.

Introducing the peer, Ms Ward said: “I know that we can and will get through these difficult times. But I also know that, at times, we need the assistance of Government to make that job a little bit easier.”

Ms Ward then presented Lord Mandelson with some green tea as a thank-you for attending.