Yesterday in the House of Commons three Tory MPs asked the same question as a starter for a discussion about small businesses “What recent steps he has taken to support small businesses” The response which came from Paul Scully who is entitled as The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy was “Last month we launched businesssupport.gov.uk, our new website bringing together all Government information available to help businesses start, grow and scale. In my first week, I was delighted to chair the Rose review board, which works with industry leaders to break down the barriers that female entrepreneurs face.” Now given that Paul has only been in this role since 13th February, taking over from Kelly Tolhurst, it is reasonable that he has not done very much. However as the debate went on two specific issues arose that deserve a bit more consideration. One is very disappointing as it clearly does not go anywhere near what is needed. The other however is potentially very significant, although if he is correct, then Priti Patel is telling a pack of lies.
The first matter related to Flooding issues. Rebecca Long Bailey raised a number of points which included “Will the Minister outline to the House what meaningful financial support has been made available to businesses affected by flooding?”
The response from Scully was “We have spent £2.6 billion on flooding so far and announced £4 billion in our manifesto. The business recovery grant provides local authorities with funding of £2,500 for severely affected businesses like the café the hon. Lady described. It is important that we support small and medium-sized businesses to recover and help to support local economies.” There was a further response pointing out that the sum was inadequate and Scully finished his response to that with “As a former small-business owner, I would welcome any visit from the Prime Minister, but what I would welcome more is the money that we are getting out the door on day one to help these businesses.” The reality is that this sum of money will not arrive on day one and a sum of £2,500 would be welcomed by any business, but in terms of its significance, that is really lacking any credibility.
The second matter however is potentially much more significant although again, it only relates to a number of businesses. However if it is correct then potentially it is very good news. The Question came from a Tory MP from Cornwall, Derek Thomas who asked “Small businesses…face an unprecedented challenge on 1 January as a result of the proposed immigration Bill. Will the Minister work with the Home Office to make sure that small businesses that do not have a workforce in the local area sitting around looking to and able to fill posts are able to carry on doing business next year?” The response from Scully was very clear “I happily confirm to my hon. Friend that our new immigration system is flexible, so, yes, we will work with businesses all around the country to ensure that we have the skills that we need to allow businesses to thrive.” The reality is that I have a lot of doubts that this is the correct version of what the Government plans, so perhaps local MPs can take this up with him again?