There are very few issues that are more important to the British Indian diaspora than business and the economy. From those who came to work in manufacturing in the 1960s to those of us who arrived in the 1970s and ran a corner shop, the desire for businesses to succeed has become ingrained in our community.
You don’t have to look far for the evidence. From a cursory glance at Britain’s Rich List through to a scan of our FTSE 100 Boardrooms, British Indians play a leading role in our largest economic institutions. And that’s before we mention the dozens of family businesses that, through decades of hard work and sacrifice, have grown into well-known brands.
One of the most enjoyable parts of being a business minister is visiting businesses across the UK. I visit dozens of businesses every month and I am always amazed by the determination and passion shown by the entrepreneurs I meet. Many of them are British Indian, and all of them have a plan and a vision for making their company the best in the market. It really is incredibly inspiring.
And it is the same wherever you go. On a visit to Zambia last year to represent the Government I met a number of business leaders in Lusaka. I was astonished by the number of British Indians who were selling British goods and services there; boosting our exports and our reputation in my home continent.
I’m very proud of the economic achievements of the British Indian community. Like the Conservative Party, British Indians value entrepreneurship and hard work and think those who help to build a stronger and more balanced economy should be rewarded.
That’s why I was so pleased last Wednesday to pass through the Government’s Small Business Bill through the House of Lords, along with my colleague Baroness Neville-Rolfe. It’s a piece of legislation that will give the hard working entrepreneurs that I’ve met across the UK.
Amongst other things the Bill makes it easier for SMEs to access finance and to win Government Procurement contracts, whilst clamping down on late payments from bigger firms. The Bill also ensures employees are protected, by clamping down on Zero-Hours Contracts and increasing the fines on those businesses that aren’t paying the National Minimum Wage.
This is the first ever Parliamentary Bill dedicated to the needs of Small Businesses. For too long Britain’s politicians paid lip service to SMEs whilst neglecting their needs. This Bill is a clear demonstration that the Conservative Party is changing that. We’re putting SMEs at the heart of our economic strategy, because it is those SMEs who create jobs and spread prosperity.
You only have to look at our record to see how strong our commitment to SMEs is. A British Business Bank established. The Funding for Lending Scheme approved. £2,000 taken off National Insurance. Red Tape scaled back. Corporation Tax cut to 20%. The education system reformed so that we can get a skilled workforce for the future. The annual investment allowance doubled so that firms can invest. 2.1 million Apprenticeships created.
These are just a few of the policies we’ve put into place to support British businesses. I’m very proud that I’ve been able to support and introduce these measures and many others, and that they’ve benefited so many families and businesses.
Both the British Indian community and the Conservative Party place a great emphasis on businesses succeeding. But it is worth remembering that no other party offers such a strong commitment –and track record- as the Conservatives.
If we end up with a Labour Government and Prime Minister after May, we’ll be entering the dangerous territory of state interference, nationalisation, Union-led policy, more Government borrowing and more regulation. We’ll be going back in time to the failures of the 1970s.
If small businesses are important to you; if you believe in a free and fair economy where people can succeed and take care of their family, then remember that there is only one Party committed to your beliefs: the Conservative Party.