As a Shadow Business Minister, I’m helping to scrutinise the Government’s Small Business, Enterprise and Employment Bill which was announced in the Queen’s Speech earlier this year. The Bill received Second Reading in July and will now move to Committee Stage, where the Bill is given line-by-line consideration. I’ll be a member of that Committee.
Labour Leader, Ed Miliband expressed his determination to make Labour “the Party of small business and enterprise”. As part of this journey we have been highlighting several anti-small-business practices and broken markets where an active government taking the side of small business could make a difference. These include; opening up procurement to smaller firms, tackling the pernicious anti-business practice of late payments and putting the relationship between publicans and large pub companies on a fairer statutory footing. In all of these areas the government have thwarted our efforts, for example voting against our proposals for a statutory code to regulate the large pub companies in January 2014, January 2013 and January 2012.
Where Labour has led, the Tory-led government has finally followed, so we are pleased that in some of these areas the government are starting to at least pay lip service to our concerns, and those of small businesses, by introducing measures in the right areas.
However, whilst this Bill is unlikely to make the current situation worse there are several areas where we feel the legislation is piecemeal and does not go far enough to remove the barriers which are preventing small businesses from thriving and surviving. There is also much in the Bill which has nothing to do with small businesses, for example public sector pay offs.
It is clear that the Tory-led government’s main concern is passing a bill with “small business” in the title as a substitute for the urgent action which is needed to get our economy going.
Summary of the Bill
The Bill looks at a number of areas including:
- Access to finance;
- Regulatory reform;
- Public sector procurement Clauses;
- The Pubs Code Adjudicator and the Pubs Code;
- Transparency of Companies;
- Company filing requirements;
- Directors’ disqualification;
- Insolvency; and
- Employment clauses on Zero Hour Contracts and whistleblowing and penalties for not paying the National Minimum Wage