The following are some very recent words that various Ministers have stated in response to their colleagues but relating to companies that are small or SME or that are not Multinational. The challenge as always is for these very nice words to then be carried forward into some actions and for some contact between the Government or these Ministers and Small Businesses. There is plenty of evidence for some small companies to have benefited from the Furlough arrangements and some Self Employed people to benefit from other arrangements. However there are also indications that some businesses are still unable to benefit from these. However as we move forward along with the need to deliver the previous promises where the gaps have occurred, we now need to see some indications and indeed to have some meaningful contact from these people and their colleagues. A classic example is the words expressed by Gillian Keegan who is a Sussex MP so it is understandable for those of us who work for small businesses in Sussex to hear a clear indication from her regarding what will take place to assist us. As I wrote a few days ago the words are very clear, however there does need to be a bit more clarity. This is particularly important because Sussex is made up primarily of Small and Micro Businesses and also that a few weeks ago on Sussex Day (16th June) most of the Sussex MPs did respond to the Sussex Charter which states very clearly Let it be known the people of Sussex will, through custom support all local business. So it seems vital for MPs of Sussex to also take this approach in their responses.
So last Friday on the 26th June a written question from John Hayes MP was answered by Paul Scully who is the Minister for BEIS with the following elements included:
JH: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, what steps he is taking to help prevent multinational corporations creating private monopolies during the covid-19 outbreak.
PS: The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) is responsible for investigating competition issues in the UK. The Government has ensured that the CMA has significant powers to investigate and act if it finds that companies are behaving anti-competitively in a market.
Then on Monday a question and answer session took place on the theme of Supporting Employment After Covid-19 and Huw Merriman started the question off but the final response from Therese Coffey included the following which has some relevance to us:
I am actively working with Ministers across the Government to make sure that we will be there to help people get into the new jobs that we rely on the private sector to create,
A day later on Tuesday John Hayes was back with a response from Victoria Prentis, a DEFRA Minister to a very significant written question regarding the frequently use but poorly understood phrase SME or Small and Medium Enterprises. It is clear that we need MPs and the Government to differentiate between the Medium Sized Businesses which represent £10m-£50m turnovers and 50-249 employees and the Small and Micro Businesses. A Small Business will be based on £2m-£10m and employ 10-49 people and the Micro Enterprise is below these figures so it of course includes Sole Traders. If the Government is going to really improve the economy they need to focus on the Small and Micro Businesses as opposed to doing most of their contact with Medium Sized Businesses.
JH: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, if he will make an assessment of the potential merits of introducing a mandatory requirement that all procurement by his Department be sourced from small and medium sized British businesses.
VP: Defra adheres to the requirements set out in the Public Contract Regulations (PCR) 2015, which look to set out and ensure that a fair and inclusive supply base exists where all have an equal opportunity to bid. The PCR enable buyers to run procurements faster, with less red tape and with a greater focus on getting the right supplier and best tender in accordance with sound commercial practice….. Defra already recognises the important role of SMEs in delivering UK economic growth and prosperity. The Government has remained committed to supporting the SME agenda and Defra supports this. We encourage SMEs to bid for departmental business and we monitor the level of business SMEs receive from us directly (by winning contracts) or indirectly (by winning contracts with prime contractors or further down supply chains). In support of this commitment, Defra has published its Small and Medium Sized Enterprises Commercial Plan. We regularly review our approach and if a barrier is identified we look to remove it.
And then finally on the same day as that response there was a question raised by an MP called Alexander Stafford whose written question was answered by Gillian Keegan:
AS: To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what plans he has to introduce retraining programmes in (a) the renewable energy sector and (b) other clean technologies sectors for people that may be unemployed after the covid-19 outbreak.
GK: Apprenticeships will have an important role to play in creating employment opportunities, particularly for young people, and supporting employers in all sectors to access the skilled workforce they need to recover and grow post-Covid-19. They can also help people re-train and re-enter the workforce…….We continue to work with further education providers and employers to ensure they deliver the skills our workers and economy need. We are looking to support employers of all sizes, and particularly smaller businesses to take on new apprentices this year. We will set out further details in due course. We will also ensure that there is sufficient funding to support small businesses wanting to take on an apprentice this year. In addition, we have launched a new online Skills Toolkit to provide free high quality digital and numeracy courses, the skills most sought after by employers.
Now along for the urgent need for us to see the further details regarding the support and funding that Keegan has referred to . As for the final sentence above there are some real concerns regarding the Skills Toolkit as it is far from clear where the skills requirements we have identified have gone to. We have spent hours working with educators in trying to match our needs and their deliveries and this Skills Toolkit will no doubt work very well for some other businesses, but it is not related to our needs.