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House of Commons Hansard
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Business Establishment: Women
22 October 2019
Volume 666
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10. What steps she is taking to enable more women to establish businesses. [900044]

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We want to make the UK the best place to work and grow a business. We have set the target of an additional 600,000 female entrepreneurs by 2030, and the British Business Bank has delivered over £198 million to women in start-up loans. With my hon. Friend the Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury, we are implementing the initiatives of Alison Rose’s review, including focusing on female entrepreneurs’ access to finance, better enterprise education and launching the Investing in Women Code.

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I thank my right hon. Friend for her answer. In my Clacton constituency, I am fortunate to have a group of very powerful businesswomen, with whom I had a very pleasant business lunch recently. In 2018, the BBC reported that women were half as likely to set up a business as men. I am pleased that the Government are doing all that my right hon. Friend said, but that must be in part due to a bias in education, so what more can be done to address this great loss of potential?

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My hon. Friend is quite right. We need to go further in addressing education, and that is why one initiative in the Rose review specifically addressed the roll-out of enterprise education in schools and colleges to help in particular with the skills women need for business success at an earlier age. BEIS has also launched the Longitude Explorer prize, which is aimed specifically at 11 to 16-year-olds, to encourage innovative problem solving in our young entrepreneurs.

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Many of the women in business in my constituency are EU nationals, and they were extremely concerned at yesterday’s tabling of the draft Freedom of Establishment and Free Movement of Services (EU Exit) Regulations 2019, which would allow Ministers to remove their rights to own and manage companies or provide services. While we welcome the fact that the Committee was cancelled yesterday, what are the Government’s plans in this regard, because many EU nationals in business are very concerned?

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I am sorry that the hon. Lady seeks to lean into the scaremongering. The statutory instrument has a very limited direct policy impact and will not impose additional restrictions on EU nationals or EU-based businesses or on the nationals and businesses of countries with associated agreements after we have left the EU. It is very important that we all take great care not to scaremonger and try to make people think that things are the case that are simply not the case.

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Establishing a business is very difficult, particularly when business rates are so high and online businesses often do not pay their way. Is it not time, particularly for those establishing businesses, that we had a root-and-branch review of the business rates model, which affects so many businesses in St Albans?

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I am very sympathetic to my hon. Friend’s point; I know she is a big champion of businesses in St Albans. In my Department, we are helping the British Business Bank to provide greater support to start-up businesses, providing huge support to the UK’s 1.2 million female-led SMEs, and doing everything we can to ensure that there are more incentives and opportunities for women to start businesses than ever before.

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If we are to encourage more women into business, it is essential that we tackle the gender pay gap at executive level. What has been done to address that issue?

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The hon. Gentleman will know that the gender pay gap is now the smallest it has ever been and that the Government have required reporting of the gender pay gap. Such transparency can partially solve the problem, but we are not resting there: we are doing as much as possible to get more women to become entrepreneurs and to help women to acquire the skills they need to lead some of our fantastic UK businesses.