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

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 10:28 am on 14th September 2011.

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Photo of Justin Tomlinson Justin Tomlinson Conservative, North Swindon 10:28 am, 14th September 2011

Absolutely. Cash flow is the most crucial element for small businesses. In my case, I did not even have an overdraft. There were times when things were comfortable and times when we were anxiously waiting on customers to pay us. If they did not pay, that had a knock-on effect for suppliers. Access to cash is crucial, and banks need to be sympathetic and not simply say that the computer says no. The banks should take account of the fact that a business with a successful track record has a couple of customers who are taking longer than normal to pay.

There are some customers who continue to spend money that they do not have. If I go into a high-street shop as a customer, put things in my bag and walk out without paying because I cannot afford to do so, I will be done for stealing. All too often, however, I see good businesses that have traded for many generations being brought to an end because some of their customers have taken advantage of their credit terms, knowing that they could not pay. The consequence is that many jobs are being lost, and things need to be tightened. I would welcome the Minister’s comments on that.