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I have to make some progress. A number of Members want to speak.
The Conservatives have always been the party of small business. Our greatest leader grew up in a grocer’s shop. I was raised by parents who juggled the demands of a family life with the stresses of managing a family business. We know first hand how important a successful small business sector is to a healthy, growing economy. We have seen for ourselves the unique struggles faced by sole traders and the owners of small companies, and we will continue to support the sector in every way we can. That is why we are setting up a small business conciliation service to help to resolve disputes between companies, especially over late payment. At the same time, we will improve the business rates system ahead of the 2017 revaluation, including through reform of the appeals system.
A thriving and growing economy must also be underpinned by democratic and fair industrial action. The trade union Bill will guarantee that strikes are the result of clear and positive recent decisions by union members. It will never be right to allow the actions of a few to hurt the hard-working majority. We will introduce a 50% voting threshold for union ballot turnouts. We will also require that, in the key health, education, fire and transport sectors, 40% of those entitled to vote must support strike action. If a union’s members genuinely support a call for strike action, we wholeheartedly support that right, but we will ensure that businesses and the wider public do not suffer widespread, costly disruption when there is no clear backing among members.
Our message could not be clearer: we are putting the interests of business first, second and third. We are dismantling bureaucracy and devolving powers to local leaders. This is how we will rebalance our economy and create opportunity in urban Britain and in rural Britain, in every part of our great nation.