[Mr Jim Hood in the Chair] — Late Payments (SMEs)

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 9:52 am on 14th September 2011.

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Photo of Fiona O'Donnell Fiona O'Donnell Labour, East Lothian 9:52 am, 14th September 2011

I thank the hon. Gentleman for his intervention. It is the job of the Government to set the tone and encourage businesses to change that culture by making it clear that late payment is not acceptable.

The issue must be set in the context of the many challenges facing SMEs in my constituency, across Scotland and across the UK, such as rising energy and fuel costs—having to fill vehicles at the pumps, which particularly affects large rural areas—VAT increases and a shrinking public sector. I appeal to the Minister to recognise that, yes, we need to rebalance the economy—especially in Scotland, where we are far too dependent on the public sector—but also that many small businesses are dependent on the public sector for their health and economic activity and if we shrink the public sector too quickly they will not have a chance to adapt to the challenges the Government are setting them.

We welcome the Vickers report and the prospect of more effective bank regulation, but I appeal to the Minister to ensure that it is not SMEs that pay the cost of that regulation in increased credit charges and more restrictive access to credit.

The Government can act on this issue and make a real difference. Labour started that work in government, but the danger is that we are slipping into reverse. I therefore hope that the Minister gives a positive response to the proposals set out by my hon. Friend the Member for Oldham East and Saddleworth. There is an opportunity for Government to change the culture and to give a lead. I look forward to the Minister’s response.