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Small Businesses

Volume 654: debated on Tuesday 12 February 2019

In the past five years we have halved late payments and through our call for evidence we are looking at what more we can do to end the scourge of late payments affecting small businesses. In January, we announced £2 million of funding for our business basics programme, supporting 15 innovative projects. We continue to do that as we try to improve productivity.

Many of the excellent small businesses in North Devon are in the hospitality sector. Will the Minister assure me that the Government will continue to support those excellent small businesses, which give such good service to our visitors and tourists?

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. North Devon is a wonderful part of the country. The tourism sector is particularly important for our economy, providing 1.6 million jobs across all regions and contributing £67.7 billion in gross value added. The Government are committed to supporting the sector and to continuing to work with small businesses through our industrial strategy and the sector deal that is under way.

Sadly, HBOS managers were found guilty of defrauding their own small business customers, yet the Financial Reporting Council has steadfastly refused to seriously consider whistleblower evidence that KPMG and the bank colluded to cover up bank losses partly attributable to that fraud. What will my hon. Friend do to ensure that this matter is seriously investigated?

My hon. Friend raises a really important question. There have been several criticisms of the FRC, which is why the Secretary of State commissioned Sir John Kingman to lead a review of the regulator. We are taking forward Sir John’s recommendations to create a stronger regulator with stronger powers. I assure my hon. Friend that I will continue to meet him on the particular issue he raises, so that we can find a resolution.

Does the Minister agree that we should support workers who keep small businesses like cafes and pubs going? In his so-called “Good Work Plan”, the Business Secretary boasted that the Government will ensure that all tips go to workers in full. Where exactly is the Bill that was first promised three years ago?

The hon. Lady is quite right. In October last year, we announced that we will bring forward legislation regarding tipping in the next Session. We are committed to doing that. It is this Government who have brought it forward.

The Secretary of State for International Trade seems to be hell-bent on destroying our businesses, judging by his support for zero import tariffs. Can the Business Minister confirm that she understands the damage that unilaterally imposing zero import tariffs would do to businesses and jobs in this country? Will she confirm whether she or the Business Secretary will remain as members of the Government if that policy is adopted?

I am glad the hon. Gentleman has raised this issue. We engage with the small business community, the wider business community and all business representation organisations on a weekly basis. It is quite right that we consult a plethora of businesses throughout the UK on any decision that will be taken on customs and tariffs. We will take into consideration their views when we set our policy, which will be announced in the near future.