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Female Entrepreneurs

Volume 586: debated on Thursday 16 October 2014

Women are central to our plans to create economic growth. We have introduced new measures to support those who want to start up or grow their business, for example through StartUp loans or the new enterprise allowance, both of which are seeing very good take-up by women. We have also appointed the hon. Member for Solihull (Lorely Burt) as the Government’s women’s enterprise champion to advise on what more can be done to support women entrepreneurs.

Does my right hon. Friend agree that removing pointless red tape and regulation has helped business women such as my constituent Emma Sutor, whose vintage clothing business is going from strength to strength?

I join my hon. Friend in congratulating Emma Sutor on the success of her company, and the many women following suit and setting up their own businesses. As well as running companies, women such as Emma have an important part to play as inspirational role models for tomorrow’s entrepreneurs. I encourage other women to consider accessing our Government schemes. It is also right to point out that we are on track to meet the Prime Minister’s pledge to be the first Government in modern history to reduce the overall cost of domestic regulation on business, rather than increase it.

Many women set up as freelancers in order to benefit from the flexibility that provides. However, a recent report has shown that there is a disincentive in the tax system for freelance entrepreneurs to invest in new skills and that, over time, that means the skills of the self-employed are not updated in line with those of the employed. Will the Minister agree to look into that, perhaps with Treasury colleagues, to see how that disincentive can be removed?

I thank my hon. Friend for bringing to my attention the “Going it Alone” report by Demos on the implications of the growth of self-employment. The Government recognise the importance of developing the skills of female entrepreneurs, something the Women’s Business Council has also highlighted to us. She will understand that it is not my role to write taxation policy, but I will be happy to discuss it further with Treasury colleagues.

Has the Minister noticed that, possibly because men have not yet colonised it, so many superb women are coming through in crowdfunding and crowdsourcing, and will she congratulate them and encourage more women to use crowdfunding to set up their own businesses?

In fact, I have noticed. I entirely agree with the hon. Gentleman and would like to congratulate all the women who are setting up businesses in this country and obtaining funding, whether via crowdfunding or any other sources. It is worth pointing out that in 2012 20% of our small and medium-sized entrepreneurs were either run by women or by a team that was over 50% female, which is an increase from 14% in 2008.

The Minister will recognise the importance of the Federation of Small Businesses in encouraging women to come forward and become entrepreneurs, particularly the FSB breakfast clubs, such as the one in Kettering, which give women the opportunity and confidence to get plugged into local business networks.

I entirely endorse my hon. Friend’s comments about the importance of the support that organisations such as the FSB can give to anybody thinking about setting up a business. I would like to draw the attention of all entrepreneurs, but particularly female entrepreneurs, to a new web page for potential and existing female entrepreneurs on the Great Business website—