In the light of the unexpected departure of Andrew Griffith from his post as Minister of State for small businesses on Friday night, it is vital that the Government appoints someone who understands how small businesses operate and their needs as our nation approaches the decisions regarding Brexit. Large businesses are heard clearly without any barriers throughout the Government as many of them fund the Tory party or include Tories as NEDs and others employ enough people to be listened to. However our economy is built extensively on the work of the SME sector with a particular focus on the micro and small businesses, as the medium size enterprises are also big enough to be heard on their own and in any case play a smaller role. What most Ministers and MPs fail to appreciate is that if the conditions for small and micro businesses collapse as seems inevitable if we go for a hard Brexit, that our economy will be destroyed as most people in the UK are employed or work in small and micro businesses. Andrews predecessor, Margot James certainly understood how small businesses work, but sadly in his 6 months in post Andrew showed no signs of this. Two possible names for the Government to consider are:
Heidi Allen – She has been MP for South Cambridgeshire since 2015 and has had personal experience of business including a small business. My friend Jane Gould made this suggestion.
Gillian Keegan – She has been MP for Chichester since 2017 and has had extensive experience of business and regular speaks up on behalf of small businesses and apprenticeships which may in the future help small businesses if the Government resolves the barriers to its own policies.
Both of these MPs are willing to speak out and challenge the Government, both come from a non political background and so are the ideal sort of Ministers that small businesses need. Perhaps instead of Theresa May deciding which of the two names is best suited, the Federation of Small Businesses and British Chambers of Commerce could be consulted. Maybe they will suggest an alternative name. However it is time for this Government to make itself accountable to the nation in a meaningful way.
One of the clear ways of assisting small businesses is for the Government to transfer its focus on the prompt payment code from an advisory and naming of signatories approach to preventing businesses that do not sign up to this code and stick too its conditions from winning public sector business contracts.