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MPs set to carry out small business work experience via ‘Business Buddy’ scheme

Small Business Minister Mark Prisk backs UK-wide placement project Cabinet Office Minister Oliver Letwin set to work in local pie shop.

MPs across the UK are set to learn about the realities of running a small business through special work experience placements this summer.

The Forum of Private Business is inviting every MP, MSP and AM in Britain to take part in its ‘Business Buddy’ scheme, which will see the politicians carry out work experience placements at local companies.

Business Buddy will allow the elected representatives to experience first-hand the problems facing smaller businesses in their constituencies by rolling up their sleeves and ‘mucking in’ with whatever tasks are necessary.

Almost 100 MPs have signed up to the scheme so far. The first Business Buddy visit took place Tuesday, 4 July, with the rest following on throughout Parliament’s summer recess.

It is also hoped that the MPs who take part in Business Buddy will stay in touch with business owners long after the visits have taken place, creating a ‘hotline’ for firms to communicate any emerging issues and concerns.

The Forum is asking each MP to spend at least half a day with the business they visit and hopes to match ministers with businesses relevant to their roles wherever possible.

Cabinet Office Minister Oliver Letwin is among the 97 MPs, nine ministers and nine shadow ministers who have signed up to become a Business Buddy so far. Mr Letwin is set to spend time at a pie shop in his West Dorset constituency in September.

Tourism Minister John Penrose is also set to be matched with a company in the tourism industry in his Weston-super-Mare constituency, while Chuka Unumma, the Shadow Minister for Business, Innovation and Skills, is also taking part.

The Forum’s Head of Campaigns, Jane Bennett, said: "It’s all well and good for lobby groups like the Forum to tell the Government about the issues facing small businesses, but there’s no substitute for first-hand experience. We want politicians to see for themselves what it’s like to run a small business – that’s why we developed the Business Buddy scheme.

"Of course, in recent years the number of MPs who have owned their own businesses has increased, and that is to be welcomed. However, different types of companies can face very different problems, and the legislation imposed on business is constantly changing, so we hope every MP, MSP and AM is able to give just a few hours of their time to take part in Business Buddy."

Miss Bennett added: "We’d like to say a big thank you to our members who have volunteered to help Get Britain Trading by hosting a visit from their MP.

"Hopefully, together, we can start to bring it home to decision-makers just how much small firms contribute to the economy and how the country will benefit if we make things simpler for them.

Small Business Minister Mark Prisk has given the scheme his backing and urged his fellow MPs to get involved.

Mr Prisk said: "I encourage all members of Parliament who share my passion for UK business to make the most of the opportunity offered by the Forum of Private Business’s Business Buddy scheme.

"My contact with small businesses tells me that you will not only benefit from gaining a real understanding of the challenges business owners face and overcome each and every day, but that you will find the experience to be hugely enjoyable.

"In May 2010 one of the first things I did as the newly appointed Minister of State for Business and Enterprise was to set my officials the challenge of spending a week in business every year. It is absolutely vital that the people charged with creating the best possible environment for business start-up and growth understand what it is like to juggle the daily demands of running a business.

"The week in business experience is now regularly quoted by many staff – no, the majority – as being the most enjoyable and developmental activity undertaken in the past year."

The Business Buddy Scheme forms part of the Forum’s new campaign, Get Britain Trading.

Get Britain Trading focuses on making things simpler for businesses in order to give them – and the economy – a boost.

As part of the campaign, the Forum asked its members what would help them to ‘get trading’ and 74% said they would like their elected representatives to focus their work on small businesses in their constituency, and this is what the new Business Buddy Scheme aims to achieve.

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