Despite nearly a decade in Parliament under my belt, I cannot deny that my primary instincts remain that of a small businessman. I am the proud founder of two small businesses which have grown to employ several hundred people, and the contribution of entrepreneurs is fundamental to the prosperity of all of our communities.
It’s not difficult to find people speaking up for small businesses in the House of Commons; but it is rare to find an answer dreamt up by politicians that truly will resonate positively with those closing commercial deals in every part of the country. Too often, the answer to solve a problem results in more work more regulation and proves less effective than intended. Yet, the Small Business, Enterprise and Employment Bill is one which I believe will confound that all-too-common criticism.
The Bill, due to receive its second reading in the House of Commons on Wednesday, promises to deliver real action in a number of priority areas for small businesses. From access to finance, through regulatory reform to public procurement, the Bill promises sensible measures to make business easier. Deregulation will be written into law as a target, and a healthy approach to streamlining the regulatory quagmire which larger enterprises assign to a department assigned to securing compliance.
The Bill will also create a statutory adjudicator for pub tenants running tied pubs – something which I have championed as a senior member of the Business, Innovation & Skills Select Committee. Many of these tenants have been ripped off for far too long, and my only disappointment is that the Government has not moved more quickly in introducing these measures.
Schools will be able to take two year olds easier, and education outcomes will be monitored with a clearer focus on employability. Small businesses need to have confidence in the education system, and I believe that it is good that schools will have half-an-eye on the sustainable employability of their pupils – particularly those aged over fourteen or sixteen.
The Bill will also deliver some changes to the cumbersome employment regulatory baggage which any small employer has to wrestle. I welcome measures to reduce the opportunities to prolong the already slow-moving employment tribunals’ process, the simplification of filing company reports and accounts, as well as efforts to modernise the insolvency process.
All-in-all, this seems to be a very good Bill, and one which should command much confidence with the small business community in this country. I suppose that, had I to find a reservation with what is being proposed, it is that it does not yet go far enough on exemptions for micro-businesses. These enterprises, consisting of just a few employees (if that), have been most vulnerable to the inevitable consequences of the good ideas of policy-makers. They are the constituency who most need this Bill – but it remains to be seen whether or not the measures which I support will go quite far enough to give them the break that they need to deliver that prosperity that local economies so desperately need.