It is always fascinating to see phrases that appear in Parliament on numerous occasions as clearly this indicates that someone or some people have got an idea that they are keen to work on. Providing the phrase is positive, the people using it need to be encouraged and helped to make the words deliver the promise that lies behind it. One of the very valuable aspects is the starting point for any statement or phrase as this is important. So going back to the very beginning, 79 years ago in December 1941 Winston Church was the first person to use the phrase in Parliament and although his use of the phrase was on a very unique basis, he is a good person to have a the original author. He stated
This is a matter to which employers would be wise to give their immediate attention. They should consider whether and to what extent they can adapt their businesses, particularly smaller businesses and industries, to a part-time system.
Because the war was forcing businesses to work differently we can be grateful that nearly 80 years later we have not been faced with any more world wars. So after Winston had made this phrase it took another twenty years before it was used again. The second one is also a bit of a challenge which came in June 1961 when the Labour MP Denis Howell stated
there are far too many businesses in this country, particularly smaller businesses, and, I am sorry to say, some family businesses, where the desire of the people at the top is to take a certain amount from the business each year. So long as they can get the £2,000, £3,000 or £4,000, or whatever the figure may be, from the business they do not care a hoot whether the business is modernised or efficient or whether they increase the sale of their products.
I can certainly write with confidence that whilst that approach may still occur, that it is not something I have personally observed, although clearly the sums are a bit out of date! So moving forward the phrase then got used twice in the 1970’s, once in 1974 and once in 1979 and then into the new Millenium when the phrase became a lot more regular. Once in 2001 and 2002 and twice in 2003 then once again in 2006 and twice in 2008 then in 2011 and three times in 2012 all by different people. Then into 2013 when it was referred to four times still by different people. There was a gap until 2016 when in May a Baroness referred to it in the debate on the Queens Speech in which she stated
LEPs can be a force for good, and undoubtedly in some parts of the country they are, but the anecdotal evidence is that the quality differs hugely. It is vital that the Government ensure that the LEPs provide the support that businesses, particularly smaller businesses, need.
She went on to refer to the overseas trading that took place by small business which should have been raised in the debates about the referendum. Then there was another gap until this year which so far has clearly been the peak of the use of the phrase. There was one use of it by the Minister for International Trade, Greg Hands in June. His use of the phrase related to the need for the Government to understand how many smaller businesses and sole traders were trading overseas which is clearly important in the departure from the EU. However there were also two uses by Baroness Berridge who has a similar role to Greg Hands but she was responding to questions on the subject of apprenticeships and so used this response on both occasions in June also
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.
However the person who is the most frequent user of the phrase and also the last person to use the phrase is Gillian Keegan who has so far used this phrase 8 times this year. She also used the same phrase as Baroness Berridge as indicated above so this has now been used 10 times in one year which is a quarter of the use of the phrase in 80 years! Gillian has referred to it six times in June and twice so far this month. So the question has to be of course when will the Government involving Gillian and Elizabeth actually connect with small businesses and when will they set out the further details. It might be helpful for them both to read an article in a magazine called Children and Young People Now which was published on 30th June. This happened to be the same day that Gillian Keegan used the phrase twice on the same day which had only happened once before on the 15th June. She has since used the phrase twice more so the magazine was published by then, so one can assume that the further details are not necessarily what the the CYPN magazine is aware of, but this was the final element of it and it is very helpful to inform Gillian and Elizabeth as they prepare the details they have in mind
Mark Dawe, Association of Employment and Learning Providers chief executive, said it had recently submitted, at the government’s request, reasons preventing the traineeship programme from taking off. “We believe incentives for SME employers will be needed. “On apprenticeships, we don’t believe that the floated £3k employer incentive is going to cut it. “To meet a 50 per cent wage subsidy, the subsidy for a young apprentice in their first year should be around £4k and up to £7.5k in the second year depending on their age,” he said.
I look forward to observing when the Government will begin to engage with small businesses and also when they will produce the further details that these two Ministers have referred to 10 times between them!