Miliband offers small businesses more say on competition

Published on Friday, 28 March 2014 14:33
Written by Daniel Mason

A Labour government would give small businesses a say in setting the agenda of competition authorities and ensuring markets are working properly, Ed Miliband said today.

In a speech to the Federation of Small Businesses, the Labour leader pledged that the FSB would "have a seat at the table" working with the Competition and Markets Authority to agree reforms and areas in need of investigation. Miliband has already offered a similar opportunity to the consumer group Which? and the Citizens' Advice Bureau.

He said he wanted the FSB at the "centre of decision-making" to ensure that "problems caused by the lack of competition that have blighted energy don't emerge in other markets".

He added: "No one knows better than you how important open competition is to your future and our future. Small businesses succeed when they are given the priority they need. When there is open competition. And when you are able to work together with other, and the government, to prosper."

On energy, Miliband insisted his proposed energy prize freeze would benefit the business community as well as consumers.

"Annual energy bills for small businesses have gone up by an average of £10,000 since this government came to power," he said. "The 'big six' energy companies have made huge profits at the expense not just of hard-working families but hard-working business people too.

"They have done it because the market just isn't working. And now it is official. Yesterday the energy regulator confirmed that view." He said Labour had "clear proposals" for reform.

Freezing prices until 2017 while those reforms are implemented would save small businesses an average of more than £5,500, Miliband claimed. He added under Labour small businesses would get the same protections as household in the energy market.

"This will mean an end by law to practices of rolling over contracts and multiple years of back billing. A requirement on energy companies to take into account small businesses' ability to pay any debt. And for the first time, a new regulator will have a clear remit to protect the interests of small business."

Meanwhile under Labour the FSB would be given more powers to act on behalf of members in enforcing rights, such as taking on bigger businesses that delay payments or HMRC acts too slowly on tax rebates.

Miliband described small businesses as the "best hope" for the UK economy in "winning a race to the top" and said Labour would put "the needs of small businesses front and centre of our government's priorities" should it win the 2015 general election.

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