Speeches » UKIP is the party of small business
Good Evening everyone I am delighted to be able to speak to you tonight as the small business spokesperson for UKIP .
I passionately believe that the importance of SMEs to our economy is far greater than most people realise.
We all know that the Conservative Party loves big business, well UKIP is all about our smaller businesses, and that's what I'm here to talk to you about today.
The business environment for smaller businesses is tough and made even tougher by the collapse of business ethics, the bully boy tactics used by our large and global corporations to browbeat their suppliers by demanding longer and longer times to pay their supplier's bills.
Across the UK and Europe this unacceptable practice is growing at an alarming rate. Vince Cable the head of The Department of Business Innovation and Spin said recently, and I quote him "when I speak to small business , late payments and long payment terms are almost always amongst their top concerns" with over 20 billion pounds locked up in late payments it isn't surprising is it?
The information from the Grocery Code Adjudicator regarding the alleged malpractice by Tesco is a step in the right direction, but decision time is 9 months away and any financial sanctions are subject to the Coalition approving the powers to limit and fine up to one percent of turnover of their big business friends. So Mr Cable I'm challenging you to see through what you have started and to extend the ability to fine wrongdoers to include manufacturers, suppliers and suppliers of services outside the grocery trade. The existing legislation is there alright but it is either so weak or the burden of proof so onerous, that taking big business to court to claim your rights is beyond the means of our smaller businesses. So the bad practice goes unchallenged. The respect of the public in our large companies is at rock bottom!
UKIP will work, and work hard to change the culture and practice of big business and bring back public confidence and respect.
In the great political debate, focus is often given, perhaps rightly, to unemployment, to the NHS, to the defence of our nation and to our education system.
The importance, and impact of small businesses seems to feature so rarely, that many fail to recognise just how crucial small businesses are to Britain. Not only are they the backbone of our economy. Not only are they the principal driver of our labour market. But it's where our innovators can be found, our entrepreneurs. Those people who once had a dream of making, or creating, of selling, or trading. A group of people who once made a decision to take control of their own future, and to build something for the benefit of themselves, and those around them.
What I'm here to say to you today, is that if you're one of those people. If you're working all the hours you can, to try and start a business, or to build a business. If you're a wealth creator, and a generator of jobs, then UKIP are here for you, and we're determined to do what we can to make your life easier.
It's been interesting, that as part of the debate on Britain's membership of the European Union, this Coalition government has loved to dish out quotes from big business. The CEO of this multi-national or other, talking about how important our membership of the EU is. There is no doubting, or denying it. David Cameron loves his friends in big business. And they love the European Union, not because they think it's good for Britain, but because they're sure it's good for them and their friends.
I know, from talking to those hard working Britons who are running small businesses up and down the country, that they, like the rest of us, are struggling...... struggling to find the cash they need to help their business to grow and to succeed...... struggling to employ the people they need, with the skills that are essential in an ever competitive global marketplace. Struggling to keep their heads above water, as wave after wave of unnecessary, overburdening legislation is swept over them.
If we, in this party, a party who truly believe in less regulation, are going to lead the way in supporting SME's then we need to do everything we can to put them first. And if you're in any doubt about why, let me tell you....... SME's account for almost half of private sector turnover. 3.7 million businesses are sole proprietors. Small firms employ 59 per cent of our workforce and 4.8 million businesses are micro businesses. We need to start putting small businesses first and we in UKIP will do that as a priority and with a passion to succeed in that task.
Let me outline some of the ways that we believe we can help to that end.
To start, UKIP will conduct a skills review, so crucial in allowing us to better inform our education system of the qualifications that are needed to succeed in the workplace today.
So often, when visiting local business owners, we're being told that workers with the requisite skills and qualifications just don't exist in the UK labour market not always true by the way.
Businesses looking to recruit and succeed aren't looking for university graduates with non-degrees in irrelevant subjects, they want people with skills. Individuals who have the ability to demonstrate more than just experience at writing essays in management speak! We need to provide our education system with the intelligence they need, so that they can better prepare people for the working world that's waiting for them.
That's step number one.
There are a number of EU directives which are a burden on our smaller businesses. The Working Time directive and the Agency workers directive to name just two. Both are messy and Ill thought out and need to be dealt with, but of course, we in this party know that we can't, and why can't we? Because it's impossible as long as we're a member of the EU. Recently we have had silly and inconsequential directives about vacuum cleaners and coffee machines and a really incompetent one called VATMOSS, the moss bit stands for mini one stop shop. This most recent bit of ill thought out legislation was intended to catch the likes of Amazon who sold digital downloads from a low VAT economy like Luxembourg. What it succeeded in doing was to catch all the smaller and micro business selling knitting patterns and other sundry items in a VAT trap which made them register for VAT however low their sales turnover was and coupled with that, the seller had to identify the country to which the product was sold, impossible in many cases and by the way, keep records for ten years. All the time our HMRC was keeping very quiet about these new regulations and the result is that many micro and start-up businesses have abandoned the idea sooner than get involved with the mindless bureaucracy........ so much for fostering the smaller business a declared aim of the EU.
Once we are out of the European Union, we would restore common sense flexibilities, which would allow more people into work, but more than that, would create a more robust, and fit for purpose labour market.
We need to lower energy costs for our businesses, getting rid of the so called 'Green Taxes' would be a good start! UKIP wants to press our energy regulators to ensure that the recent falling energy prices are passed on to you, speedily and in full.
UKIP will make it a priority to work with, and to encourage local councils to provide more free parking in our town centres.
As local authorities are squeezed from above, they have started to view our local car parks as cash cows, an easy way of bringing in revenue.
UKIP will do all it can to bring an end to these charges altogether, which have been a hammer blow to small retail units in declining town centres. We don't need financial incentives and token reward schemes to revive our high streets, we just need a good dose of common sense, of UKIP common sense, and that's what we're here talking about today.......
UKIP are going to push for simplifications to be made to the planning system. To help bring about an environment that can benefit SME's. It's ludicrous,it's downright scandalous, that small businesses owners are left scrapping for business premises at a time when we have units lying empty, numbering in the thousands. Unnecessary bureaucracy is causing business owners to jump through hoops to satisfy archaic planning legislation that requires a simple change of use from A2 to A1. UKIP would seek changes within that system, making it easy to marry up small business owners with vacant properties to create a match leading to jobs and enterprise.
UKIP wants to see much greater Broadband penetration in our rural areas and to see much better mobile phone coverage in our countryside and not just our cities based on geography and not on population. WE need a signal when we need it for reasons of safety as much as anything.
UKIP will extend the right of appeal to HMRC for micro businesses, that is those with less than nine employees, with the provision that no action is to be taken by the HMRC on micro businesses until all appeal processes are complete. A much lighter touch is what is needed. We want to encourage, and expand on that practice. In UKIP we understand that business is about long term planning, and cash flow. Whilst always encouraging businesses to maintain an open and honest dialogue, it's just as important to ensure that reciprocal support is paramount from the HMRC too.
Bank lending to small firms needs to be made far easier, with better access to business angels, and new forms of finance such as crowd funding, often called Peer to Peer lending. This is where small investments are made by private individuals through a broker and is just the sort of community effort which UKIP endorses as it doesn't entail giving away large slices of precious equity. Just the interest on the funds are payable by the investee company.
It is interesting to note that this form of small business finance has just reached three billion pounds, three times as much as the Coalition backed so called 'Green Bank' based in Edinburgh which was trumpeted by Vince Cable recently. We know, because we've been told so often, that cash flow is crucial to small business.
And finally, regulation. We're not just here to talk about how important small businesses are, UKIP understands their true importance, and we're going to fight harder than ever to see SME's released from the burdensome yoke of over-regulation.
The main priorities for any business must always be to run, and to grow their business. Time for them is valuable and the amount of time it's taking to assimilate and implement overburdening regulation is costing them too much......... Regulations have to be reduced, and must start being relevant to smaller businesses..... At present, most regulation works against growth and jobs... This is not the encouragement that hard working people need and the encouragement that the EU profess to give to our smaller business.
SME's themselves tell us that regulation on employment, data protection, health and safety, all of these things are a heavy burden. They want regulators to listen to what they have to say. How can it be right to impose one size fits all legislation without rigorous testing which is both proportionate, and evidence based? Where is the science and the proof that all these regulations and directive are necessary? Does it exist? I really doubt it.
One of the things that makes me most proud to be a part of UKIP is that, like you, I'm not a politician. I'm business woman. I've worked in small companies before, and was once sent to Brussels on their behalf to help make the case for a level playing field, naively thinking that legislation could be simplified to help business rather than hinder it.
I can tell you from my own first-hand experience at the coal face, there has never been any will to lessen red tape. Their only interest is in finding ways to increase it, just another reason why we in UKIP understand the importance of taking back our independence, and making our own laws.
We all know that the Conservative Party are the party of big business. Well I'm here to tell you today that UKIP are the party of real business, and we're going to mean business as we take our message to the people of this country. Thank you very much.