The government's Small Business Bill announced today could be a strong move in favour of the economy's SMB engine room if the details are properly worked out, lobby groups say.
John Allan, national chairman of the Federation of Small Businesses, said the Small Business, Enterprise and Employment Bill is a landmark move – for the first time addressing the specific needs of small business.
"It includes measures we have pushed for in our discussions with government and indeed all political parties over the past 12 months – such as action on late-payment terms for smaller suppliers and to beef up scrutiny of unnecessary regulation," he said.
A package of proposed measures aimed at creating a fairer market also includes moves on access to finance, employment law and procurement, as well as initiatives to support the struggling public-house sector.
The FSB now looks forward to seeing the bill's detail when it is published on 16 June, Allan said. If it passes it will do so by March 2015 before the next general election.
"New legislation to impose high penalties on employers who fail to pay the minimum wage will help prevent workers being exploited and stop unscrupulous employers from illegally undercutting other small businesses," Allan added.
"Our surveys show a majority of FSB members pay above the living wage and three quarters expect to increase wages further this year. Bosses who knowingly break the law by failing to pay the minimum wage should not be allowed to get away with it."
An appropriate minimum wage will help prevent a fall in wages yet not harm companies' ability to hire and fire as required, he explained.
According to Allan, the move to promote fracking or shale gas extraction is also welcome, as the cost of energy is becoming a "make or break" issue for many small firms.
Phil Orford, chief executive of the Forum of Private Business (FPB), suggested that the proposals were relatively unambitious for the government's final term.
"But the presence of a small business bill will mean a number of smaller measures that could support enterprise. We need to await the real detail of the bill, clause by clause, to see what opportunities there are," Orford said.
Edmund Truell, group chief executive of financier Tungsten Corporation, also welcomed the small business bill, particularly when it comes to addressing financing and lending to SMBs.
"Lending to SMEs fell in 2013 for the fourth consecutive year, and when one considers that SMEs account for over 99 per cent of UK businesses and nearly 60 per cent of private sector jobs, it is quite clear how crucial this issue is," Truell said.
"The old guard of lenders – preoccupied with repairing balance sheets – is not serving SMEs as they should."
Infrastructure provider says international sales now make up 51 per cent of its revenue
Suzanne Chappell of TMS plans sailing venture after selling Oxfordshire-based TMS to acquisitive Chess
Withdrawal of credit insurance by some providers a 'reflection' of current challenge facing IT sector, according to MD Steve Soper
SMART's UK managing director joins Lenovo to boost SMB business