From the top · 5 July 2016

What the prime ministerial hopefuls have to offer small business owners

prime ministerial hopefuls
Michael Gove’s family business folded in the 1980s
As the battle for leadership of the Conservative party and the country heats up, Business Advice looks at the small business credentials of the candidates and reveals who wants to abolish red tape for micro firms and who has witnessed business failure first-hand.

Andrea Leadsom

Boris Johnson’s preferred contender has previously argued that firms with under three staff should be exempt from all employment legislation.

In a debate in parliament in May 2012, Andrea Leadsom argued that owners of the country’s smallest firms should be free from red tape while establishing a business, a policy which she said would encourage entrepreneurialism among young people.

I envisage there being absolutely no regulation whatsoeverno minimum wage, no maternity or paternity rights, no unfair dismissal rights, no pension rightsfor the smallest companies that are trying to get off the ground, in order to give them a chance, she said.

if we could wipe out such regulation for the very smallest businesses, set a flat-rate personal allowance and 20 per cent flat-rate tax, including capital gainswith a turnover restriction, of coursethat would get our economy going again and provide a direct incentive for those who are looking for work, particularly young people, to do something for themselves, Leadsom added.

The MP for South Northamptonshire worked for Barclays before she moved into politics, and established a buy-to-let property company with her husband, resigning from its board shortly before being promoted to a role in the Treasury in 2014. But she has previously been criticised for using offshore banking to reduce the company’s tax bill.

Michael Gove

For the justice secretary, small business is personal. In the run-up to the Brexit vote, Gove described his father’s small business going to the wall? as a result of EU fisheries policy. The Aberdeen-based firm started by Gove’s grandfather went under in the 1980s.

In the speech announcing his candidacy, Gove highlighted the importance of entrepreneurialism to the UK economy, arguing: More and more thinkers have made a compelling case for a leading role for Government in creating a more entrepreneurial state. And that must be the right course for Britain creating our own equivalent to DARPA, providing the capital for new tech innovation and helping the tech sector grow even faster.

However, he has recently come under attack from small business minister Anna Soubry, who responded to the announcement of his leadership bid by saying: I think he’s behaved appallingly. I think in his heart he will know he has. He has done his country, his party, the cause of politics and himself no good service whatsoever.

And in 2014, Gove clashed with then shadow chancellor Ed Balls when he criticised Labour’s plan to raise corporation tax to fund a cut in business rates for small firms.

Theresa May

May is a champion of gender diversity in small business, supporting mentoring and arguing in 2011: If the UK had the same level of female entrepreneurship as the US, there would be approximately 600, 000 extra women-owned businesses, contributing an extra 42bn to the economy.

we want the UK to be the best place in the world to start and grow a business, and for the next decade to be the most entrepreneurial and dynamic in Britain’s history women can be at the centre of that success.

In 2013 the home secretary launched an invite-only visa scheme to help successful business leaders move to the UK, called the Great club. But in the wake of the referendum, she has refused to rule out deporting EU citizens, adding to the concerns of small business owners trying to navigate post-Brexit recruitment.

May has also come under fire by the founders of tech startups for the ‘snooper’s Charter, a proposed piece of legislation requiring such firms to hold on to customer data for 12 months.

Liam Fox

Fox is a proud proponent of the micro enterprises thriving in his North Somerset constituency, and regularly throws his weight behind Small Business Saturday.



Hannah Wilkinson is a reporter for Business Advice. She studied economics and management at Oxford University and prior to joining Business Advice wrote for Kensington and Chelsea Today about business and economics as well as running a tutoring company.

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