Boosting SMEs from Brussels

Small and Medium Sized Enterprises (SMEs) are by far the biggest employers in Europe and the UK. 99% of all EU businesses are SMEs, and they account for about two thirds of all private sector jobs. I have made it my priority to be responsible on behalf of the Liberal group in the Employment committee for anything to do with boosting SMEs and Micro Enterprises.

The Employment Committee, while not always directly responsible for policies relating to SMEs, Growth, and Innovation, is often an opinion giving committee, allowed to feed in ideas and suggestions to the reports of other Committees and draft legislation from the European Commission. This fits in with a bigger campaign by the Liberal group in the European Parliament (ALDE) to "Boost SMEs". You can read more about the campaign here.

Key files I have been responsible for so far include:

"SMEs: Competitiveness and Business Opportunities"

 "Employment aspects of minimizing regulatory burden for SMEs"

"An Action Plan to improve Access to finance for SMEs".

My work has focussed on cutting administrative burdens - the day to day paperwork required to show compliance with national and EU rules. I've been pushing hard to make simplification of these process an absolute priority, particularly by promoting things like "e-government" and "one-stop shops" where information is easily available and accessible through well managed websites and information points.

I'm also emphasising the importance of apprenticeships and other kinds of in work learning and training, to help young people and those who maybe haven't got the right skills and education in the past to be able to find a first job. This is really important as Small and Micro businesses can tap into a huge amount of talent which is often missed, by recruiting people through these schemes. In return, apprentices and trainees get valuable experience and more often than not a firm job offer at the end.

Access to Finance however is one of our biggest challenges. Over the past few years, as a result of the economic crisis funding for small businesses and entrepreneurs to start up, expand, or even operate in their normal way has dried up. Many small businesses used small flexible loans to cover gaps between their upfront production costs, and the profits made once their goods had been sold. But increasingly wary banks having made disastrously bad lending decisions in the past, stopped this kind of lending even to perfectly viable and profitable businesses.

I'm doing everything I can to make sure that European funding helps sort this problem out, and to ensure that new rules coming from Brussels complement the good measures being taken by the coalition government, like the Green Investment Bank, rather than hold them back on competition or other legal grounds.

Bennion slams public procurement vote

  Changes voted this morning by MEPs to reform rules on public procurement have wrecked a sensible Commission proposal to open up the process and would make it harder for small and medium-sized businesses to take part, says West Midlands MEP Phil Bennion.

Commenting on the vote of the European Parliament's Internal Market and Consumer Affairs Committee, the Lib Dem MEP attacked the 'naked protectionism' which has been allowed into the report

European patent deal is huge boost for UK business

Liberal Democrat MEPs have welcomed today's green light for a deal on a unitary European Patent as a huge boost to business.

The European patent deal approved by the European Parliament is huge boost for UK business after 40 years of wrangling The European Parliament at Strasbourg voted to accept a hard-fought compromise package which has taken nearly 40 years to negotiate

Victory for Potteries ceramics firms and MEP as EU slaps anti-dumping duty on Chinese tableware

The European Commission has backed a last ditch lobbying effort by Potteries ceramics firms and Lib Dem Euro MP Phil Bennion and imposed provisional anti-dumping duties on imports of ceramic tableware and kitchenware from China, from midnight last night.

The move follows a nine-month Commission investigation into claims by ceramics manufacturers, including Steelite of Stoke on Trent, that huge quantities of cheap Chinese products were being sold in the EU at artificially low prices

Regional Growth Fund boost for West Midlands and Potteries

Regional Growth Fund boost for West Midlands and Potteries October 19, 2012 9:05 PM The latest round of the Regional Growth Fund is supporting over 7,500 new jobs in the region.

Projects to support over 7,500 new jobs and secure 14,000 more across the Potteries, the West Midlands and Warwickshire feature in the latest round of investment by the government's Regional Growth Fund announced today [Friday October 19th]

Local business urged to have their say in EU consultation on cutting โ€˜red tapeโ€™

Lib Dem MEP Phil Bennion is urging businesses in the West Midlands to have their say in one of the largest ever consultations on business regulations by the European Commission.

The move follows a campaign by the Lib Dem ALDE group of MEPs highlighting the need to streamline 'red tape' to give small to medium sized businesses the best possible chance of getting the economy moving again