A few days ago just before Parliament broke up for the half term holiday, there was a series of Topical Questions for the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) Department. One of the people who took part in answering the questions was Paul Scully who is the Departments Parliamentary Under Secretary and the MP for Sutton and Cheam. He is also the Minister for Small Business. He spoke about a number of subjects but one that got referred to twice in his answers was the prompt payment code which as he explained to the Stourbridge MP, Suzanne Webb initially
The strengthened prompt payment code ensures that those small businesses will get paid within 30 days.
So the question has to be raised with him and his colleagues which is what was done to strengthen it and how is it ensured. Sadly far too many small and micro businesses are facing challenges with a range of their clients who can delay payments by far more than a few days beyond 30 days. 3 months is not a shock and indeed sometimes 6 months or even 9 months can occur. So 30 days would be very inspiring if it is ensured Paul.
The second person who raised a similar question was Sally-Ann Hart who is the MP for Hastings. Sadly she referred to Small and Micro Businesses as SME as part of her question which was very disappointing, however she made a very clear statement from the Hastings FSB that they are not experiencing the ensured PPC.
The Government are already embarking on their unprecedented levelling-up agenda. What measures is my hon. Friend planning to facilitate levelling up by small businesses, looking specifically at start-ups and growing SMEs, as well as at issues arising from late payments, reducing employment costs, improving skills such as digital skills, and levelling up apprenticeships? Those are the specific questions asked by the Federation of Small Businesses in Hastings and Rye.
So Mr Scully responded simply by stating
The Federation of Small Businesses does a great job across the country, including in Hastings and Rye, and, as I said, it is very important that SMEs play a massive role in levelling up around the country. I have talked about the fact that strengthening the prompt payment code will ensure that small businesses get paid within 30 days. We will always do more to make sure that we can support small businesses, because we know that cash flow is king, and they will be a major part of building back better.
So it appears that whilst he initially claimed that the Strengthening PPC is ensuring the 30 day payment that it now is simply going to ensure. The question has to be when will that take place and indeed what was done to strengthen the PPC for Small and Micro Businesses. Perhaps we can also persuade Paul Scully and Sally-Ann Hart to focus on the three sectors within the SME group of business and stop treating them as one group of similar businesses. A company with 9 employees is very different to a company with 249 employees and even more extreme a sole trader is very different to a company with 50+ employees. As it happens both of those extremes are not small companies that fit into the middle of those definitions.