BUSINESS is the lifeblood of any city. Without it, there would be no city. In times of economic crisis, while the largest of businesses failed, it was the smaller shops and market traders that rose to the challenge and provided the stability to guide this country back towards recovery.
The consistent fall in unemployment rates and the decrease in number of those claiming benefits in Milton Keynes is a real testament to how small local businesses can have such an impact on a community.
That is why the Small Business, Enterprise and Employment Bill, which has received its Second Reading in the House of Commons6, is so important.
From my many visits this year to small businesses all over Milton Keynes and my meetings with the Federation of Small Businesses, I know how greatly anticipated this Bill has been, not least because SMEs make up 96% of all UK business.
With unemployment down to 6.5%, there is no better time to start making it faster and easier to grow a small business in the UK.
The Small Business Bill is designed to support existing small businesses, encourage their growth and inspire budding entrepreneurs.
Let me talk you through some of its key points.
Getting financial support is the key to any successful business. However, 50pc of small business proposals are turned down.
The Bill proposes a system whereby banks are forced to refer businesses they reject on to other providers. This will foster greater competition and support broad-based growth.
Zero Hour Contracts
These have had a bad reputation of late but were a hot topic of discussion at my breakfast meeting with members of the North Bucks FSB.
Zero hour contracts can provide small businesses with the flexibility they require, with 2%-4% of jobs making use of them. However, the terms under which they operate are often not user friendly.
The Bill seeks to abolish exclusivity clauses completely, which I know many people and businesses will be pleased to see.
This is a thorny issue for many businesses in Milton Keynes, particularly for our more technical businesses. I am therefore pleased that this Bill seeks to reform public procurement so that small businesses have fair access to a market worth £230 billion.
I am always keen to support small businesses and am hosting a competition in Olney where customers can vote for their favourite shop or business and be in with the chance of winning £100 spending money.
It is a simple yet effective way to bring the focus back to our high street and value the sense of community it provides. If it is a success, we will roll it out across Milton Keynes and turn it into an annual event.
I am pleased that the government is not letting up on its commitment to small businesses. I am proud that this administration is unashamedly pro-business and its leadership has been resolute in standing up for the needs of small businesses across the country.
Mark Lancaster is MP for Milton Keynes North, a Lord Commissioner of HM Treasury and Parliamentary Private Secretary at the Department for International Development.