Study suggests that MPs need to know more about business-friendly policies

Friday 24 July 2015

A new report by YouGov and the Entrepreneur’s Network has revealed that MPs often lack the necessary information to decide on the best policies for the self-employed and small business owners. They study also highlighted the differences in the policies supported by the two main parties on an individual level.

The 2015 Parliamentary Snapshot: MPs on Entrepreneurship discovered that while there was a significant difference of opinion between Labour and Conservative politicians, a surprising number were uninformed about both the initiatives already in place and those being suggested to support enterprise.

As was to be expected, a majority of the Conservative MPs surveyed (89 per cent) supported lowering business rates, compared to 48 per cent of Labour MPs. Instead, 63 per cent of Labour MPs prefer to support more grants and loans to boost businesses, which is less popular among Conservatives (36 per cent).

Of course, one of the most contentious issues was the impact a potential EU exit could have on UK entrepreneurs. More than half of the Conservatives surveyed (58 per cent) felt that a so-called “Brexit” would be a net positive for those looking to set up their own business, whereas 95 per cent of the Labour politicians thought it would have the opposite effect.

However, in a worrying development, 56 per cent of the Conservative politicians either had not heard of the Seed Enterprise Investment Scheme, or felt they didn’t know enough to say whether it was effective.

Definite support amongst Conservatives for the Enterprise Investment Scheme has also dropped. Last year, 68 per cent backed the initiative, which is now down to 45 per cent.

This ignorance extends to both sides of the House of Commons, as 61 per cent of Labour representatives were either unaware of or uncertain about Innovate UK, which currently runs bids for government funding.

Speaking to City AM, Entrepreneurs Network programmes director Annabel Denham said: “Such strong opinions are vital if the UK is to create a better environment for entrepreneurs: we want our politicians to analyse and scrutinise the multiple, competing policy options open to them. But they jar with the lack of awareness of initiatives already in place.

“We cannot expect MPs to know about every policy, but too often they are inadequately informed to vote on changes affecting entrepreneurs. We need more knowledgeable MPs, and a more vocal entrepreneurial community to tell them which initiatives are working on the ground.”

Luckily, there are some areas of consensus that can be used to create strong policies in the future. Greater investment in creating a skilled UK workforce is popular among both parties, backed by 93 per cent of Labour MPs and 83 per cent of Conservatives. The second most popular policy with both parties is making it easier for entrepreneurs to come to the UK (supported by 80 per cent of Conservatives and 66 per cent of Labour).
While political affiliation is a deeply personal decision, it is important that contractors and freelancers know which party will back the policies they would like to see implemented, particularly when it comes to their livelihoods.

By Victoria McDonnell

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