Shadow Business Secretary Chukka Umunna has today been fleshing out Labour’s pitch to businesses if they are victorious in the upcoming General Elections. Labour previously announced plans to introduce an American-style Small Business Administration if elected in 2015, and has now gone further by detailing plans to slash “blue tape” – the rules that govern business-to-business dealings.
The Coalition Government’s Red Tape Challenge, which involved businesses and individuals in the deregulatory process, has eliminated or improved some 3,000 regulations – but the “one-in one-out” rule (whereby any incoming regulations must be offset by the scrappage of an old law) has been criticised for excluding EU regulations, which account for a huge portions of UK law, such as the Agency Workers Regulations and Working Time Directive.
The most pressing blue tape issue is – as many small businesses will be painfully aware – late payment. Although the current Government has introduced the Prompt Payment Code to encourage FTSE 500 companies to honour their payment times, many studies have shown payment times, especially from larger businesses, are actually increasing. Under the new rules, businesses would be forced to include invoice payment times in their Annual Accounts, and Labour are exploring the idea of naming and shaming the worst offenders.
Labour are also exploring new ways to get more businesses connected to ultra-fast broadband, and say they will work with Ofgem to ensure similar rules are applied to business utility bills to ensure SMEs are always automatically put on the lowest tariff.
Umunna said of the changes:
“We will be unremitting in tackling practical barriers to business success wherever they exist and wherever they arise. The next Labour government, working through our new Small Business Administration, will make boosting competition by reducing barriers to entry to new markets for firms – large and small – a key priority reflected across government.
“As well as a better approach to regulation – so that it is drawn up with the small business and entrepreneur in mind – this means tackling ‘blue tape’ too, by reducing the hurdles which come from other businesses and empowering best practice where firms make life easier for each other.
“We will make it simpler and more straightforward for businesses to start up, enter new markets and operate successfully, ensuring that no one is held back.”