It was great to hear that litany of British businesses successes.
But Charlie, when you said that “everyone” needs a Tangle Teezer hairbrush. Are you sure you meant everyone? I should add that the 1 haircare product that I do use is also made here in the UK. Mr Sheen.
I know that a couple of years ago the Chancellor stood here and talked a bit about his personal experience of private business. How he grew up watching his dad running the family firm. A firm that employs hundreds of people, turns over millions of pounds, and sells its designer wallpaper right around the world. My early exposure to private business was rather different. The clothes shop my dad ran, for the most part, never had more than 7 employees – him, my mum and, during the school holidays, me and my 4 brothers. That’s why I know more about 1970s ladies fashions than any other male MP. As for exports. Well, I think we once sold a skirt to someone in Wales.
But whether you’re running a small fashion retailer in Bristol, or an international wallpaper designer on the King’s Road.
Whether you’re making folding bicycles or folding ballet pumps.
Whether you’re a kitchen-table start-up or a centuries old family enterprise.
You all face the same challenges when you’re running your own business:
- you’re highly exposed to the ups and downs of the economy
- a new product line could grow the business if it works, or bring it crashing down if it fails
- one late payment from a major client can wreak havoc with your cash flow
- it’s rarely easy to find the expert advice you need to help your business expand
- and even if you’ve got a great idea, finance from sceptical banks can be hard to come by
- you can’t even rely on Dragon’s Den, as Shaun Pulfrey found!
But despite all the barriers, despite all the challenges, the people here tonight have come out on top.
This room is filled with successful businessmen and women. In brewing, retailing, manufacturing, publishing, even corn-popping, you know what it takes to reach the top.
You know how many obstacles you have to overcome.
And you know the scale of the challenge that British businesses faced just 5 years ago:
- the worst recession in almost a century
- the biggest budget deficit since the Second World War
- the world’s largest bank bailout
- a nation saddled with debt and an economy struggling to grow
When we came to power, in 2010, we knew that Britain couldn’t have a sustainable recovery without a thriving private sector.
And that’s why we’ve been working tirelessly to support business leaders like you.
Now I know this evening is all about what private businesses have achieved, and I don’t want to be accused of stealing your thunder.
But as Ruby just talked so convincingly about the importance of self-promotion, I’m sure you’ll forgive me for telling you a little bit about what we’ve been doing to help!
- we’ve cut red tape and regulation, giving you the flexibility and freedom to run your companies the way you want to run them
- we’ve cut corporation tax, so you can invest more of your profits in continued success
- we’ve introduced a new employer National Insurance Contribution allowance, lifting 450,000 employers out of NICs altogether
- we’ve created a £1.2 billion package to put a 2% cap on increases in your business rates
British Business Bank programmes are already supporting £2.3 billion of finance to 40,000 smaller businesses.
UKTI is helping you access new markets overseas. Only this month I was in China and India, where British private companies are doing just that.
The Start-Up Loans programme has provided entrepreneurs with more than 30,000 loans worth well over £155 million.
And the Business Growth Service has brought together a huge range of advice and expertise to help you expand.
Combining dedicated, dynamic entrepreneurs with a pro-business, pro-growth government has really delivered results.
- employment is up - in the last 5 years, we have created more jobs than the rest of the EU put together
- inflation is down
- the British economy is growing faster than any of our major rivals
- the number of small and medium-sized companies that are exporting just keeps on going up
But we’re not about to put up our feet and say “job done”.
I know that businesses like yours have massive potential for further growth, but surveys show that a shortage of skills and finance are hampering that.
So from next April we’re abolishing employer national insurance contributions on apprentices under the age of 25, making it easier than ever for you to take on and train the next generation of talent.
In January we’ll permanently increase the Annual Investment Allowance.
Not just doubling it, or event trebling it, but raising it by massive 700% so you can spend more on the equipment you need in order to expand.
We’re rolling out Growth Hubs across the country, helping you access support where and when you need it most.
And then there’s the Enterprise Bill, which started its passage through Parliament last month.
The bill will cement the UK’s position as the best place in Europe to start and grow a business.
It will cut red tape, reform business rates, make it easier for small businesses to resolve disputes, reward entrepreneurship, generate jobs, boost wages and offer people opportunity at every stage of their lives.
Because this is a government that stands behind you, not in your way.
A government that is unashamedly pro-business, and believes that successful businesses are an asset to be treasured, not a problem to be dealt with.
When I was asked to speak at tonight’s award ceremony, I didn’t hesitate to accept.
Not because of the excellent catering, or because of the quality of the company – although it is of course a pleasure to spend the evening with Charlie!
I wanted to join you here because tonight is all about celebrating private business.
And that’s something politicians simply don’t do enough.
As we’ve already heard, the vast majority of British businesses are in private hands.
They employ millions of people, pay billions in tax, generate over a trillion pounds of revenue.
Yet, too many Business Secretaries have overlooked the private business sector in favour of the more glamorous listed companies. The big names and bright lights of Paternoster Square and Wall Street.
But all businesses start life as private businesses.
Without you there would be no IPOs, no flotations, no stock market.
And without you we wouldn’t have some of Britain’s biggest, best, most dynamic and most exciting companies.
It’s been said that while good companies meet needs, great companies create markets.
And when I look at the list of nominees here tonight I see a list of great companies who have done just that.
So let me be very clear – this is one Business Secretary who appreciates private business.
Who understands the challenges you face, the support you need and, above all, the contribution that you make.
And that is why I’m here tonight.
- because successful companies should be applauded.
- because entrepreneurs should be saluted.
- because private business deserves to be celebrated.
Good luck to all the nominees, congratulations to all the winners, and have a great evening.