Westminster Outlook More news of this column's hero from last week, the maverick Conservative MP for Northampton South, Brian Binley. Done – temporarily – with verbally skewering the ministers and advisers involved with undervaluing Royal Mail by around £1bn when it was privatised in October, the 72-year-old has returned to his greatest concern, the fate of small business.
Mr Binley is chairman of the All-Party Parliamentary Small Business Group and has launched an inquiry into productivity. This was prompted by recent Office for National Statistics data showing that workers' output per hour is 25 per cent lower in the UK than the average for G7 nations. The group is asking small businesses how they have been affected by this "productivity lag" and what the Government should do to help them get the most out of their workers.
Mr Binley wants to know how easy it is for small firms to secure loans and whether the education system provides people with skills suitable for the workplace.
He correctly argues that small and medium-sized businesses account for 59 per cent of private sector jobs and says that, despite this, "their role in raising productivity has been largely overlooked in recent macro-level debates".
Interested parties have until early June to submit evidence to the inquiry and I would urge them to do so. The gap with the rest of the G7 is far too great to ignore and regaining that ground should start with helping out the firms that form the bedrock of our economy.