Why MPs need to know more about entrepreneurship


Which policies to support entrepreneurs do MPs value the most? Which do they feel could have a negative impact on entrepreneurial activity in the UK? Are our elected representatives knowledgeable enough on the initiatives already in force to support entrepreneurs?

These are the questions The Entrepreneur’s Network sought to answer in our 2015 Parliamentary Snapshot: MPs on Entrepreneurship, which was conducted by YouGov and supported by law firm Bircham Dyson Bell.

It came as little surprise to learn that Conservative and Labour MPs are ideologically split on tax, regulation and increased government spending. For example, 89 per cent of Tory MPs support the lowering of business taxation; but just 48 per cent of Labour MPs agree. And while 63 per cent of Labour MPs support spending more on government grants and loans, this is the least popular policy among Conservative MPs, with just 36 per cent thinking it would buy ativan mexico have a positive impact on UK entrepreneurial activity.

MPs from the two main political parties do see eye to eye on some policies, however. Spending more on the skills of the domestic workforce, for example, saw 85% support from Conservative MPs and 93% from Labour. Making it easier for entrepreneurs to move to the UK is the second most positive policy among MPs – receiving 80% support from Conservative MPs and 66% from Labour.

But the biggest divergence was in response to the UK’s membership of the EU, and the regulations coming over from Brussels. Although some commentators suggest the Labour Party is as Eurosceptic as the Conservative Party, the survey reveals Labour MPs are significantly more pro-Europe than their Tory counterparts. Over half, 58%, of Conservative MPs think withdrawing from the EU would have a positive impact on entrepreneurial activity in the UK, but 95% of Labour MPs believe it would have the exact opposite effect.

It is positive that MPs have such strong opinions: we want our politicians to analyse and scrutinise the multiple, complex policy options open to them. But our Snapshot also exposes a worrying lack of knowledge about the policies already in place to support entrepreneurs. Too often, MPs are in the dark about established initiatives – or if they have heard of them, they don’t know enough to decide whether they are effective. Which means they don’t know enough to vote on important policy changes that could affect the startup community.

Conservative MPs may believe that tax cuts offer one of the best ways to support entrepreneurship in the UK, but over half, 56%, either haven’t heard of the Seed Enterprise Investment Scheme (38%), or didn’t know enough about it to decide whether it was effective (18%). And just 45% support the Enterprise Investment Scheme, down from 68% last year. Both these initiatives offer tax relief to investors in smaller companies, and are rightly seen by startup community as essential to the UK’s entrepreneurial success.

Similarly, many Labour MPs think spending more would be the best way to boost entrepreneurship in the UK, with 63% supporting spending more on government grants and loans, and 61% supporting more spending on government support services. However, many are unaware of government spending already in place. For example, 61% of Labour MPs haven’t heard of the lauded Innovate UK (which runs competitions for government funding), or don’t know about it well enough to determine whether it is effective.

It’s certainly encouraging that MPs are increasingly vocal about supporting Britain’s entrepreneurs. But in order to improve policymaking, we need more knowledgeable MPs. And we need a more outspoken entrepreneurial community to tell them which initiatives are working on the ground.