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The Small Business, Enterprise and Employment Bill has been introduced to Parliament

The Small Business, Enterprise and Employment Bill, (introduced to Parliament on 25 June 2014), will remove barriers to growth for small firms, strengthen the foundations for a sustainable recovery, and create jobs.

The bill builds on the government’s commitment to help make the UK the most attractive place to start, finance and grow a business.

It will ensure that businesses that play by the rules cannot be undercut by those who break the law and that Britain continues to be recognised globally as a trusted and fair place to do business.

Measures focussed on helping small business will:

  • improve access to finance through increasing the availability and sources of investment for small businesses, so that they can secure the funding they need to grow
    • open up access to small business credit data, level the playing field between providers and make it easier for a small business to seek a loan from a lender other than their bank
    • the introduction of ‘cheque imaging’ to speed up cheque clearing from 6 days to 2
    • increase trade credit availability by a potential £1.8 billion by enablingHMRC to share non-financial VAT registration data on a controlled basis to qualifying organisations
  • cut red tape by ensuring regulations affecting business are reviewed frequently and remain effective. It will also introduce a requirement for government to publish a target for its impact on regulatory burdens in each parliamentary term, holding future governments to account
  • introduce a Pubs Code and Adjudicator to govern the relationship between pub-owning companies and their tied tenants, bringing fairness to the sole traders and small businesses that run approximately 20,000 tied pubs across England and Wales
  • enhance the reputation of the UK as a trusted and fair place to do business by increasing transparency around who owns and controls UK companies; and helping deter and sanction those who hide their interest in UK companies to facilitate illegal activities or who otherwise fall short of expected standards of behaviour.

Business Secretary Vince Cable said:

The government is working hard to improve the environment for small businesses. Better access to finance for SMEs, measures to boost trust and transparency in British business and increasing fairness in the workplace are key issues that this bill aims to address.

Our flagship measures will help hard-working people have confidence in their employers by tackling abuses in zero hours contracts, give publicans a fairer deal over big pub companies, tougher penalties for those who don’t pay the minimum wage and greater clarity around who owns and controls our companies.

Skills and Enterprise Minister Matthew Hancock said:

Every village, town and city throughout the country is host to a range of small businesses from shops, garages and cafés, to manufacturing firms and tech start-ups. We are backing business every step of the way with the first small business bill, to help create the prosperity and secure the jobs we need.

Small businesses are the driving force of our economy and this bill is part of the government’s commitment to back enterprise and help firms to start-up and scale-up.

The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) has welcomed the new bill and the increased focus on small firms.

John Allan, FSB National Chairman said:

The small business bill reflects growing recognition of the role small businesses have to play in driving forward the economy and the need to do all we can to support them in that effort.

This landmark bill is welcomed by our members. It includes measures that we have pushed for in our discussions with government and indeed all political parties over the last 12 months to help them support their growth ambitions – such as action on late payment terms for smaller suppliers and to beef up scrutiny of unnecessary regulation.

The Small Business, Enterprise and Employment Bill also introduces measures to:

  • stop abuse of individuals on zero hour contracts by making sure they are not tied exclusively to 1 employer
  • deter employers from breaking National Minimum Wage legislation by amending the power to set the maximum penalty for under payment so it can be calculated on a per worker basis
  • strengthen the rules on director disqualifications to widen the matters of misconduct courts must take into account when disqualifying, including conduct in overseas companies, and measures to help creditors recoup losses resulting from director misconduct
  • assist small business expansion overseas by increasing the support available from UK Export Finance and widening its powers, making it easier for all businesses, regardless of size, to expand in the international marketplace
  • streamline insolvency law to remove unnecessary costs and ensure effective oversight of insolvency practitioners so they deliver their services at a fair and reasonable cost that reflects the work undertaken
  • improve companies’ payment practices so that small businesses can negotiate fair terms and ensure more of their invoices are paid on time
  • provide new and improved information on learning outcomes by tracking students through education into the labour market; identifying which schools and colleges provide the best routes to sustainable employment.
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