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SMEs: Kent and Medway

Volume 620: debated on Tuesday 31 January 2017

SMEs in Kent are fundamental to our economy, as they are everywhere else. Through local growth funds, the work of Kent County Council and the business operations of Kent and Medway, the Government will ensure that the area benefits hugely from the increased number of SMEs.

In view of the Government’s commitment to investment in infrastructure, which will assist businesses in Kent and Medway, will the Minister confirm their commitment to the Lower Thames crossing, along with extra investment for Kent roads, which will provide connectivity for local businesses?

The Department for Transport will make an announcement, but my hon. Friend should be reassured that Kent County Council and the relevant business organisations are working closely with my Department to ensure that there are extensive improvements in the transport infrastructure in his constituency and the wider county.

I trust that the question will not be on the matter of Linlithgow, but will focus purely on Kent and Medway, in which I am sure the hon. Lady keenly specialises.

You can be assured of that, Mr Speaker.

The SMEs in Kent and Medway need someone in government to fight their corner. In July 2015, they were promised a small business commissioner who would focus particularly on late payments. The Federation of Small Businesses and others have raised concerns about the lack of power that the commissioner will have, and the fact that 18 months after the position was created, there is no sign of a commissioner. Will the Minister tell SMEs in Kent and Medway, for which I have the greatest regard, and others throughout the country when the commissioner will be appointed, and whether he or she will have proper powers to ensure that companies that do not pay are taken to task?

First, I can reassure the hon. Lady that Kent and Medway is ably championed by my hon. Friend the Member for Gillingham and Rainham (Rehman Chishti), who asked the original question, but apropos of her specific point, we are in the process of appointing the small business commissioner at the moment; he will be in post by the summer and able to take complaints on the important issue of prompt payment in the autumn of this year.