This website was established while I was a Member of Parliament. The site content is being kept online as a source of information, but all forms / email have been disabled.

21 January 2009

Support for Small Businesses

Support for small businesses is absolutely vital, as everyone here today has said. Before I came into Parliament, I ran two separate small businesses, but I cannot believe that there is one Member in any party in this House who has not been contacted by a business that needs some help at this time.

Recent events should have brought the banks, businesses small and large, finance companies and leasing companies together. However, what has happened has bewildered many people, as banks have received billions of pounds of public funding while at the same time tightening the screws on small businesses. The banks have not been supportive or passed on interest rate cuts. Instead, they have done the opposite; raising charges, withdrawing services and removing facilities.

Many years ago, when I was in the United States, the motto of the Fleet Bank of America was that a bank should be more than a source for money; it should be a force for positive good. However, we are seeing the complete opposite of that today. In my constituency, Royal Bank of Scotland and Halifax Bank of Scotland are two of the largest employers, yet, at the same time, I am constantly contacted by businesses that use those two banks saying that their bank is not only failing to support their business but being an absolute hindrance by changing the terms of their loans and pulling back on facilities.

Ironically, the owners of a business based in the Chancellor of the Exchequer’s constituency, Edinburgh, South-West, live in my constituency, and that business has been affected. I have contacted the Chancellor and will be delighted to provide the Minister with the full details today, because what is unfolding in the Chancellor’s constituency is an absolute outrage. The banks are receiving billions of pounds of our money, which includes the employees of that certain company, but unless the banks do something that business is in serious danger.

We have seen public money going into the banks to keep them in business, but those benefits have not been passed on. We cannot continue to pump money into the banking system without an assurance that the banks will take immediate action to support small businesses. Time is of the essence.

Today, record levels of unemployment have been announced, and I fear that many companies north and south of the border and across the width of the country are close to the edge. We have an opportunity to keep a lot of small businesses in business, if the Government get together with the leading lights in the banks to ensure that the money works its way into businesses. Those businesses are not asking for charity; they are asking for a level playing field, so that they can provide work and services, employ their employees and pay their taxes, including their company taxes.

Many of these small businesses are running at a profit, but they face severe cash-flow problems. I would be grateful if the Minister, when he is winding up today, were to assure me that the Government will do everything that they can do to ensure that the banks support these businesses. We are not asking the banks to loan money to businesses that are not good investments. Unfortunately, however, unless things change, very good businesses will not be able to trade, because of the banking system’s lack of co-operation.

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This website was established while I was a Member of Parliament. The site content is being kept online as a source of information, but all forms / email have been disabled.