In Europe MEPs often talk about small and medium sized businesses but then also seem to do very little to help them. The truth is that small businesses are a very diverse bunch and there is no one size fits all solution.
In Brussels this week I supported Robert Sturdy MEP who was hosting a workshop on “Inadvertent Doping”. This was co-ordinated by HFL, a world leading company based in Cambridgeshire. They want to help athletes to avoid taking banned substances by mistake. They brought together experts from all across Europe to brainstorm solutions. There is a lot of money at stake too. The market for Food supplements used by amateur athletes is already over a billion pounds and has doubled in the last decade. The companies described how they would like stronger global standards.
Today, I met a group of small businesses in Freckenham with Matt Hancock MP who has just been made the Government’s new Small Business champion. Businesses asked me what we could do to unlock some of the bureaucracy of EU regulation in public procurement contracts so I described the work we are doing to change the style of contract negotiations to favour innovation. I discussed my campaign to exempt micro businesses from all EU regulations (lots of head nodded. There is much to be done in ensuring that European red tape does not strangle our small businesses. After four years of campaigning the EU has finally listed ‘Top 10 most burdensome EU Acts for SMEs?’ – now I want to see some Action to repeal or change those Acts - we will be debating it next week in Strasbourg.
Having the right infrastructure for business growth is also essential. So, at the other end of the scale, this week, it was great to see the huge £40m investment in the North Terminal Railhead at Felixstowe Port. This will help to double the amount of freight travelling by rail get even more trucks off our roads – from Suffolk, through Cambridgeshire and all the way to the Midlands and further afield. I have been working on this project for more than five years. Every time we get public or private investment for a bit of the route to be upgraded I help to get a bit of match funding from the EU budget. Of course we need the road improvements too but the rail is a good start.