Small businesses are the backbone of our local economy. I grew up in a small family business in my constituency and understand the ups and downs of such enterprises. Last week I joined a debate in Parliament about the importance of self-employment to our national economy; the value of such businesses are estimated at many billions of pounds.
The debate was held not only to highlight the support for small businesses from this Government but to push Ministers to do more to exempt small businesses from regulation that has a disproportionate effect and cost on their business.
It has been estimated that if every small and medium sized business took on one more person this year all unemployed people would have the opportunity of a job.
I work closely with small businesses in my constituency and know that many would like to grow and take on new staff but think twice when they look at the red-tape and costs involved. Regulation emanating from the EU is often identified as a major problem. I have been pleased to hear David Cameron challenging the other member states of the EU to urgently reform regulation and push for exemptions for micro and small businesses.
There is one particular area of self-employment I was able to highlight during the debate, namely the growing opportunity for people to become call centre operators from home.
People with disabilities and people with caring responsibilities often need to be home based, so this new model of delivering high quality customer service direct from people’s homes could be a flexible employment opportunity.
One company, Arise has around 1500 employees working across the UK, including in Cornwall, fielding customer service calls for a range of companies including Littlewoods. Arise are looking to recruit another 1500 new people this year in the UK alone.
This is encouraging, and represents the reversal of a trend of service jobs lost to overseas call centres. I have asked the government to follow the lead of Barack Obama who is creating the right tax regime so that customer service jobs can be repatriated to the UK.
As readers of these pages will know there is a raging debate about the harmful effects of drinking too much alcohol and what to do about it. Over the past few years I have listened to doctors, nurses, paramedics, police officers, pub and club owners, brewers, concerned young people and adults. Their experiences have convinced me that this is a vital issue that needs to be urgently addressed.
If in anyone is still in any doubt that that we don’t have a huge problem to tackle I suggest they go into the centre of Truro and Falmouth from 11pm until 3.30am and see for themselves. On Saturday night I joined the saints who are the Street Pastors, based in the Methodist Church on the Moor in Falmouth. They do an invaluable job of looking after intoxicated people, and I am grateful for their insights and time spent with me.