First, I would like to start by wishing all my constituents a belated Happy Easter. And while the political calendar rests for the period, I have a chance to reflect upon the busy schedules that dominate a sitting Parliament and legislators like myself.
One such example is the work of Bill Committees whereby legislation is scrutinised line by line in order to deliver an effective Bill to be debated in the House. Most recently, I sat on the Enterprise Bill Committee.
Across the UK, small businesses employ over fifteen million people and produce a turnover of around £1.6 trillion. Enterprise and local businesses are a cornerstone of Bury St Edmunds and of the region.
However, recent statistics show that in the last quarter of 2015, the turnover of small businesses in Bury St Edmunds, decreased by 5%. It is often quoted in this place, that we need to be backing our small and medium enterprises, through both the best and worst times and to help grow our economy.
Supporting our small businesses was the intention of the Enterprise Bill, with the purpose of reducing regulation while creating jobs and rewarding entrepreneurship and growth; aspirations welcomed by the business community. These ambitions would be delivered through measures including the creation of a Small Business Commissioner; devised to advocate for small businesses.
Readers may not be aware that late business payments cost this country around £26.8 billion. One such function of the Commissioner, would be to oversee the timely payment of suppliers; working to reduce this burden on our economy. The actual ability of any Commissioner to have enough ‘clout’ and to enforce payments on time, will have to be evaluated in due course. However, I fear this well intended measure simply doesn’t go far enough, nor understand the pressures of running a small business. Furthermore, as so often is the case, it is difficult to legislate for poor behaviour around late payments or indeed reward, in any meaningful way, those businesses who pay in a timely fashion.
Another important measure of the Enterprise Bill is to support the target of creating three million apprenticeships. To ensure that these apprenticeships deliver quality, accredited training to guarantee people have choice. This is to be welcomed, for already 5,320 young people have taken up an apprenticeship in Bury St Edmunds since 2010. Yet as more apprenticeships are created, it is essential these, working with employers and colleges, cater to all ages and skill-sets to deliver people into work.
So with measures like the Small Business Commissioner and apprenticeship standards, it is vital these are delivered in the best interest of constituents and those impacted by the legislation. Most importantly it is vital that these ambitions can, through well formulated legislation, be attained. And so, the ability to closely analyse legislation in this way, is what makes the work of Bill Committees so interesting and valuable to the democratic process.
-- Jo Churchill is MP for Bury St Edmunds and Stowmarket