Press release: Number of UK businesses continues to grow

The number of private sector businesses in the UK has hit 5.4 million – a new record – according to official figures published today (14 October 2015).

The Business Population Estimates also show the number of businesses that employ people has grown for the second year running, with 35,000 more at the start of 2015 than in 2014.

Small businesses continue to make up 99.3% of all businesses and generate over £1 trillion turnover for the UK’s economy.

There has also been an increase in the number of medium-sized businesses, which employ between 50 and 249 people, with 1,000 more of these firms at the start of 2015 than in 2014.

Business Minister Anna Soubry said:

It’s fantastic news there are now a record number of businesses in the UK, creating jobs and ensuring our country’s economic security.

Our long-term economic plan has helped create the conditions for businesses to start, grow and flourish.

But with risks in the global economy, this government is determined to continue to back our businesses and grow our economy.

The figures also show there are 7,000 large businesses in the UK that employ over 10 million people and make a significant contribution to the economy (£2 trillion turnover).

The overall business population includes 3.3 million sole proprietors and 1.6 million companies.

Notes to editors

  1. The figures published today (14 October 2015) are the official estimates of the UK business population in 2015.The Business Population Estimates 2015 statistical release
  2. This robust estimate of the whole business population is obtained by adding the number of businesses registered for VAT and PAYE to an estimate of the number of unregistered businesses, based on additional sources including the ONS Labour Force Survey and data from HMRC.
  3. This gives a snapshot of businesses at the start of 2015. The reported 146,000 growth is the net annual change, taking into account all business start-ups, closures and also takeovers and mergers. It means more businesses have started than closed.
  4. Small businesses accounted for 99.3% of all private sector businesses at the start of 2015, and 99.9% were small or medium-sized (SMEs).
  5. The overall business population includes 3 main legal forms: there were 3.3 million sole proprietorships (62% of the total), 1.6 million companies (30%), and 436,000 ordinary partnerships (8%).

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Press release: More people than ever doing an apprenticeship

Provisional statistics revealed today (14 October 2015) show that more people than ever are doing an apprenticeship, with strong growth in the number of higher apprenticeships.

More than 872,000 people were employed on government funded apprenticeships during the 2014 to 2015 academic year, with almost 30,000 people working to gain the high value skills British businesses need via higher and degree apprenticeships. The government is committed to building on this success and launching more degree apprenticeships that combine a high quality degree with an apprenticeship.

Skills Minister Nick Boles said:

Our apprenticeship reforms are helping to build the modern highly skilled workforce British businesses need. We are committed to delivering 3 million apprenticeships by 2020 because that means more opportunities for our young people, more growth for our businesses.

Through protecting apprenticeship quality, reforming funding and working with top universities to launch new degree apprenticeships, we are making sure apprenticeships deliver for individuals, businesses and the economy.

The government reforms will ensure that every big company plays their part in developing the next generation of skilled workers and put an end to low quality apprenticeship courses. Reforms include the introduction of an apprenticeship levy to increase investment in apprenticeships, protecting the term ‘apprenticeship’ in law and ensuring large value government procurement contracts have a commitment to hire apprentices.

An apprenticeship delivers high returns to the economy, with £26 to £28 being returned for every £1 of government investment.

The statistics also show that 2.38 million apprenticeships were delivered in the last parliament. The government is now committed to the ambitious target of delivering 3 million apprenticeships by 2020.

The provisional figures further reveal that 19,200 people started a traineeship in the last academic year, a strong increase over the previous year. Traineeships provide the experience and work skills to progress into an apprenticeship or other job.

Notes to editors

  1. The October Statistical First Release (SFR) contains new data showing provisional figures for the full 2014 to 2015 academic year (August 2014 to July 2015) on apprenticeships, English and maths, Community Learning, Offender Learning, Employer Ownership Pilot, 24+ Advanced Learning Loans, traineeships and overall FE and Skills.
  2. Figures for 2014 to 2015 will be finalised in the November 2015 Statistical First Release.

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Press release: New measures to protect UK workers

Recruitment firms who recruit solely from overseas without advertising in Great Britain and in English will be prevented from doing so, under plans announced by the Business Secretary today (13 October 2015).

The government will also consult on introducing a new criminal offence to tackle unscrupulous employers who subject vulnerable migrant workers to illegal working conditions and pay.

The proposals are put forward in 2 consultations published today on reforming recruitment sector legislation and tackling exploitation in the labour market.

Business Secretary Sajid Javid said:

To ignore the pool of talent in the UK wastes the potential of British people who want the dignity of a job and the security of a pay cheque.

This one nation government is committed to making sure our economy delivers for people who want to work hard and get on in life.

We will also protect migrant workers who are duped into working in the UK and then exploited by rogue businesses. Their unscrupulous practices undercut firms who play by the rules.

Minister for Immigration James Brokenshire said:

We will make Britain a fairer, and safer place for employees by introducing new and improved protections for workers.

A new Director of Labour Market Enforcement and reforms to the Gangmasters Licensing Authority sends a clear message that we are committed to protecting employees and bringing rogue operators to justice.

I want to send a clear message to workers, we will pass new laws to protect you, and we will enforce them.

The recruitment sector plays an important role in ensuring the labour market works effectively by helping people to find permanent and temporary work. These proposed changes strike a balance between removing burdens on employment agencies and retaining important protections for people who are looking for work. This includes stopping recruitment firms recruiting solely from other European Economic Area (EEA) countries.

The labour market consultation includes 4 proposals to build on the effectiveness of the current regime:

  • a new offence of aggravated breach of labour market legislation for the worst offenders
  • police-style powers and a wider remit for the Gangmasters Licensing Authority (GLA), to enable it to tackle serious exploitation
  • a new Director of Labour Market Enforcement, to set priorities across enforcement bodies dealing with everything from criminal activity to payroll errors
  • increased intelligence and data sharing between the existing enforcement bodies and also other bodies such as the National Crime Agency, police forces and local authorities to increase the targeting of enforcement

The new offence will target those employers who deliberately, persistently and brazenly commit breaches of labour law, and fail to take remedial action. Being found guilty could lead to a custodial sentence.

A reformed GLA will investigate exploitation of all workers, whether employed through an agency, gangmaster or direct employer. Trained staff will be able to use police-style powers so they can seek and use search warrants to secure crucial evidence.

Notes to editors

  1. Regulation 27A of the Conduct Regulations, which came into force in January this year (2015), already requires employment agencies and employment businesses in Great Britain, if they are advertising a vacancy for a job based here, to advertise it in Great Britain and in English either before or at the same time as advertising it in another European Economic Area (EEA) country. We now want to take this further by reducing the scope for employment agencies and employment businesses to fill vacancies here with people from overseas without any advertising. We are proposing that those employment agencies and employment businesses that recruit overseas, for work in Great Britain, would be required to advertise in Great Britain and in English, either at the same time or in the 28 days prior to any overseas recruitment activity.
  2. Employers who want to recruit from outside of the EEA need to comply with the Resident Labour Market Test. This requires employers to advertise a position in 2 UK publications for 28 days and provide evidence to UK Visas and Immigration that this requirement was met and yielded no suitable candidate.
  3. Details of the consultation on reforming the regulatory framework for the recruitment sector and proposal to prohibit EEA-only recruitment.
  4. The Director of Labour Market Enforcement will be appointed by and report to both the BIS Secretary of State and the Home Secretary. We intend that the Director will hold a statutory position, and we have included legislation to create the position in the Immigration Bill, which was introduced to Parliament on 17 September 2015. The Director will set priorities for the HMRC National Minimum Wage team, Employment Agency Standards Inspectorate and the Gangmasters Licensing Authority.
  5. The work of the GLA is currently limited to licensing of gangmasters, and enforcing those licenses, in specified sectors of the economy (farming, food processing and shellfish gathering).
  6. Details of the consultation on tackling exploitation in the labour market.

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Press release: Government completes final sale of its stake in Royal Mail at 455p per share

The government has sold a 13% stake in Royal Mail plc at a price of 455 pence per share. The remaining 1% shareholding will be gifted to Royal Mail’s eligible UK employees – taking the total stake in the business owned by employees to 12%.

The sale has raised £591.1 million. Proceeds raised from sales of all the government’s shares total £3.3 billion.

Business Secretary, Sajid Javid, said:

This is a truly historic day for Royal Mail with the workers gaining a share of this history.

We have delivered on our promise to sell the government’s entire remaining stake which means that for the very first time the company is now wholly owned by its employees and private investors. This is the right step for the Royal Mail, its customers and the taxpayer.

Proceeds will also go to help pay off the national debt – a crucial part of our long term plan to provide economic security for working people.

Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne said:

This is a milestone moment in the long and proud history of the Royal Mail, when we secure its long term future. By fully leaving state ownership we have a win all round – for customers, the workforce and the taxpayer. And every penny will be used to pay down our national debt as we continue to bring our public finances under control.

Once again, we are also going to recognise the hard work of the staff who have done a great job in turning the company around, and give them a 1% stake to share between them.

There is no policy need for government to hold shares in Royal Mail, as the universal postal service remains well protected by law and by Ofcom.

Post Office Ltd, which operates the network of branches throughout the UK, remains wholly-owned by government and was separated from Royal Mail in April 2012.

The relationship between the Post Office and Royal Mail is a commercial one and a 10 year contract for the delivery of Royal Mail services through post offices was put in place in 2012.

Notes to editors:

  1. On 4 June the Chancellor announced that the Government will sell its remaining shares in Royal Mail.
  2. On 8 June the government published a parliamentary report explaining the sale of the Government’s remaining stake in Royal Mail.
  3. On 11 June, the government sold 50% of its existing stake at 500p per share raising £750 million.
  4. On 8 July, the Summer Budget document stated “the government intends to complete the sale of its remaining 14 per cent shareholding in Royal Mail by the end of 2015 to 2016, subject to achieving value for money”.
  5. On 21 July, the government published a parliamentary report explaining the gift of shares to eligible UK employees.
  6. On 10 June, it was announced that the government would gift 1% of shares in Royal Mail to eligible UK employees to reward them for hard work in turning round the company. On 17 September these shares were transferred to the Royal Mail Share Incentive Plan. The shares were allocated to employees on 5 October.

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Press release: Government to begin disposal of its remaining Royal Mail shareholding

The government has today (12 October 2015) begun the process of disposing of its remaining shareholding in Royal Mail plc. The disposal of the shares will be by way of a placing to institutional investors. The government currently holds just under a 14% stake in Royal Mail, with the remaining shares held by a combination of employees and private investors.

A Department for Business spokesperson said:

The Business Secretary has today authorised a sale process to begin. Current market conditions should allow a successful sale and the realisation of value for the taxpayer.

The universal postal service is strongly protected by law and Ofcom has a duty to ensure its provision. Therefore the government sees no policy reason to retain a stake in Royal Mail.

The Post Office Ltd, which operates the network of branches throughout the UK, remains wholly owned by government and was separated from Royal Mail in April 2012. The relationship between the Post Office and Royal Mail is a commercial one and a 10 year contract for the delivery of Royal Mail services through post offices was put in place in 2012.

Notes to editors

  1. On 4 June 2015 the Chancellor announced that the government will sell its remaining shares in Royal Mail.
  2. On 8 June 2015 the government published a parliamentary report explaining the sale of the government’s remaining stake in Royal Mail.
  3. On 11 June 2015, the government sold c50% of its then existing stake, amounting to approximately 15% of the company, at 500p per share raising £750 million.
  4. On 8 July 2015, the Summer Budget document stated “the government intends to complete the sale of its remaining 14% shareholding in Royal Mail by the end of 2015 to 2016, subject to achieving value for money”.
  5. On 21 July 2015, the government published a parliamentary report explaining the gift of shares to eligible UK employees.
  6. On 17 September 2015, 1% of the government’s shareholding was transferred to a Royal Mail Share Incentive Plan as gift to eligible UK employees to reward them for hard work in turning round the company. The shares were allocated to employees on 5 October 2015.

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Press release: Merseyside beats global competition to build £200 million polar research ship

The government has today (12 October 2015) announced that Cammell Laird in Birkenhead has been selected as the preferred bidder to build a state-of-the-art £200 million polar research ship that will maintain the UK’s position firmly at the forefront of climate and ocean research.

The decision follows a 12-month competitive tender process that involved bids from companies in the UK, Europe and the Far East. The winning project will secure jobs and apprenticeships and provide a significant economic boost to Merseyside.

The shipyard is expected to cut steel in autumn 2016 and deliver the next generation polar research vessel ready for operation by 2019.

Universities and Science Minister Jo Johnson said:

As a one nation government we are investing in science capital on a record scale. This £200 million investment secures the UK’s position as a world leader in polar research and provides a major boost to shipbuilding in the North West.

Britain has long been a pioneer in ocean science, shipbuilding and manufacturing. Cammell Laird’s success in this competition is testament to this expertise and our commitment to continue pushing the boundaries in marine science.

Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne said:

In last year’s Budget I committed £200 million to help put Britain at the forefront of polar research, and I’m delighted to see the preferred bidder is a UK company in the heart of our Northern Powerhouse.

This will help secure vital jobs and apprenticeships in the North West and also make sure Britain stays at the cutting edge of polar research.

Cammell Laird Chief Executive John Syvret said:

The new contract, which will be finalised later this year, is expected to secure 400 jobs at Cammell Laird and a further 100 jobs within the local supply chain. Cammell Laird has a very successful apprenticeship scheme and would plan to recruit 60 apprentices throughout the term of the contract. Being selected as the preferred bidder in a global tender to undertake such an exciting and major infrastructure project is fantastic news for our workforce, the local region and the UK. We look forward to helping the UK explore the depths of the ocean and push the boundaries of UK science.

The new polar research ship, which will operate in both Antarctica and the Arctic, will be able to endure up to 60 days in sea-ice to enable scientists to gather more observations and data.

The ship will be the first British-built polar research vessel with a heli-deck to open up new locations for science and will be one of the most sophisticated floating research laboratories operating in the Polar Regions.

Tonne for tonne, the UK will have the most advanced oceanographic research vessel fleet in the world.

Robotic submarines and marine gliders will collect data on ocean conditions and marine biology and deliver it to scientists working in the ship’s on-board laboratories.

Airborne robots and on-board environmental monitoring systems will provide detailed information on the surrounding polar environment.

Funding for the new polar research ship was announced in April 2014 as part of the government’s science capital programme. Cammell Laird has been selected by the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) through a full competitive procurement process.

NERC Chief Executive Professor Duncan Wingham said:

This new research ship, which is expected to become operational in 2019, will be equipped with onboard laboratory facilities and will be capable of deploying robotic technologies to monitor environmental changes to the polar oceans and will help UK scientists continue to lead the world in understanding our polar regions.

Changes in both the Antarctic and Artic marine ecosystems affect the UK’s environment and economy, particularly in industries such as fishing and tourism. The Natural Environment Research Council funds polar research so that as a nation, we can develop policies to adapt to, mitigate or live with environmental change.

This new polar ship will be a platform for a broad range of science, researching subjects from oceanography and marine ecology to geophysics.

The new vessel follows in a long line of Royal Research Ships, including the RRS Discovery which today (12 October 2015) departs from London to Southampton after docking on the Thames to mark NERC’s 50th anniversary.

The new ship will be operated by the British Antarctic Survey (BAS) and will be available to the whole UK research community, including for postgraduate training.

Director of British Antarctic Survey Professor Jane Francis said:

This new research ship will be a tremendous asset to the UK polar science community. Our science and operational teams have been working closely with research colleagues from Britain’s leading universities and institutes to help create a world-leading science facility. We very much look forward to seeing our ideas become a reality. Crucially, the ship will have the capability to deploy advanced technologies being developed currently in the UK. These will allow us to capture new ocean and ice data from places that would otherwise be inaccessible. This is a very exciting time for UK polar science.

Notes to editors


Broadcast-quality footage and stills showing existing polar ships in ice are available from British Antarctic Survey. Contact Linda Capper (details below).


  • For enquiries on the procurement process please contact Julia Maddock on 01793 411539 or
  • For enquiries on the ship’s science and operational missions or to set up interviews with polar scientists please contact Linda Capper on 01223 221 448 or


  1. The government has committed to a real-terms investment of £6.9 billion in science capital up to 2021 and the new polar science ship will be delivered as part of this commitment.
  2. Key facts about the new polar research ship:
    • the ship and associated upgrades to the UK’s Antarctic infrastructure to accommodate the new vessel represents a capital investment of over £200 million by the UK government
    • it will be a state-of-the-art science platform to be used in both the Antarctic and the Arctic
    • it will act as a central hub for a range of data-gathering remote instruments and onboard environmental monitoring systems, including both marine and airborne robots
    • the ship will have a ‘moon pool’ which allows instruments to be deployed and collect data through an opening in the hull rather than over the side
    • it will be able to deploy and recover large remotely-operated and autonomous marine vehicles, such as NERC’s autonomous submarine ‘Autosub’
    • it will capable of carrying helicopters
    • the laboratory space will be flexible to meet the evolving needs of science over the lifetime of the ship.
    • it is expected to have ice-breaking capabilities that will allow it to break ice up to one metre thick when travelling at 3 knots
    • it will be able to accommodate up to 60 researchers and technical support staff
    • it will carry equipment capable of sampling and investigating the ocean abyss and the seabed
    • the ship will resupply the 5 UK research stations in the Antarctic operated by NERC’s British Antarctic Survey
  3. The contract to build the new polar research ship will be awarded according to European procurement rules with an open worldwide tender for the design and build contract.
  4. Bids were received from shipyards in the UK, Spain, Norway, Singapore and South Korea.
  5. Cammell Laird is one of the most famous names in British industry. The business is located on the River Mersey, in the Liverpool City Region, on the West Coast of England. It is in the centre of a marine cluster, with direct access to many support services. It has a 120 acre site with 4 dry docks, a large modular construction hall and extensive covered workshops. Cammell Laird specialises in military ship refit, commercial ship repair, upgrade and conversion and heavy fabrication and engineering. It deals with a wide variety of projects ranging from specialist offshore conversions and fabrication, commercial ship-repair through to the refit and upgrade of highly complex naval auxiliaries. It has also recently re-entered the ship-building market. The business is further active in the energy sector. It has become a hub of the offshore wind industry and it is offering its facilities and highly trained workforce of engineers for work in the civil nuclear sector and the off shore oil and gas sector.
  6. NERC is the UK’s main agency for funding and managing research, training and knowledge exchange in the environmental sciences. Its work covers the full range of atmospheric, earth, biological, terrestrial and aquatic science, from the deep oceans to the upper atmosphere and from the poles to the equator. It coordinates some of the world’s most exciting research projects, tackling major issues such as climate change, environmental influences on human health, the genetic make-up of life on Earth, and much more. NERC is a non-departmental public body. It receives around £370 million of annual funding from the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS).
  7. BAS, an institute of NERC, delivers and enables world-leading interdisciplinary research in the Polar Regions. Its skilled science and support staff based in Cambridge, Antarctica and the Arctic, work together to deliver research that uses the poles to advance our understanding of Earth as a sustainable planet. Through its extensive logistic capability and know-how BAS facilitates access for the British and international science community to the UK polar research operation. Numerous national and international collaborations, combined with an excellent infrastructure help sustain a world-leading position for the UK in Antarctic affairs. For more information, visit the

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Speech: Working with the Vietnamese to fight IP crime


Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen, can I begin by saying how glad I am to be surrounded by British businesses who are already successfully exporting to the ASEAN region.

We are very privileged today (23 Spetember 2015) to be joined by Tran Viet Thanh, Vice Minister from Ministry of Science and Technology Director General of the National Office of Intellectual Property (NOIP). This is a great opportunity for us to share insights as to how IP systems can help businesses and promote growth. I am looking forward to a constructive discussion about how we can work together to promote improved ways of doing IP business, whether that be registering, managing or enforcing IP.

I have a long career in the private sector so I understand the concerns and needs of business, especially when expanding and operating overseas in some of the world’s most challenging markets – I operated in South East Asia for 14 years and indeed was responsible for a big IP portfolio!

Help in ASEAN

We are here to help you succeed and grow in this region. Such success should reap benefits for the UK and Vietnam. Vietnam is growing at an impressive 6% and has a young and dynamic population and if we can win investor confidence trade and investment between our countries can flourish and increase. I know how much the Prime Minister appreciated his recent visit and I am now here to follow up in the area of innovation and intellectual property (IP).

Since October 2013 the Intellectual Property Office’s (IPO) specialist IP attaché to South East Asia, Christabel Koh, who some of you may know, has been covering the 10 ASEAN markets and I must say that she, and her counterpart in China, have made a step change and helped a number of companies with IP challenges as part of our overall trade and investment offer.

Christabel is able to work with the relevant teams in the Vietnamese government. We can’t of course offer any miracle cures, and her remit is around intellectual property, because we believe the UK and Vietnam can work to target the problem areas that are most useful for UK business.

Vietnam and beyond

We have had an IP system in the UK for hundreds of years, although it is continuously changing with the times not least the digital revolution. Here in Vietnam the IP system may be, relatively speaking, new but the Vietnamese government have shown that they want to build a system that works, both for their own businesses and creations and for overseas businesses coming to Vietnam. This presents us with a great opportunity. Through events such as this, we can build greater mutual respect and trust and make progress of benefit to both nations.


Vietnam is of course geographically adjacent to China and the rest of ASEAN. This presents its own issues, but also its own opportunities. How best can we, together, work with enforcement agencies across international borders to help restrict the routes through ASEAN for fake and counterfeit products? And prevent these from flowing around the world and hurting your reputation in important markets like the EU.

We are already working with the Vietnamese to fight IP crime on a programme which will help them to enforce IP rights at their borders. It is early days but we hope by sharing expertise, knowledge, techniques and training methods we can improve the fight against IP crime.

Over many years, we have really improved the enforcement of UK IP rights and as a result the Taylor Wessing Global IP Index has judged the UK to be the best place in the world to obtain, exploit and enforce IP rights. Something we are rightly proud of and keen to hang on to.

Important initiatives which may be of interest include: site blocking with industry support, a dedicated IP online crime unit in the City of London Police and the Intellectual Property Enterprise Court giving access to justice for smaller businesses and individual creators.

I very much look forward to working more with our Vietnamese partners to identify innovation, to improve enforcement, enhance research and creativity and limit IP theft.


Ladies and gentlemen, I believe that Vietnam presents a fantastic opportunity for UK businesses. Through engagement with British business, and with Christabel providing specialist IP support, we have a unique opportunity to work with the Vietnamese government to create an IP system that is beneficial to UK and Vietnamese businesses.

But I am here to engage with you and look forward to your questions.

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Speech: UK’s contribution to Operation Opson

Good morning and welcome to the UK’s third planning conference for Operation Opson.

It is a pleasure to host this conference at the home of the business department and I hope you will find today’s (30 September 2015) presentations engaging and stimulating.

I am really delighted that the Intellectual Property Office (IPO) has been joined this year by the Food Standards Agency (FSA) in the co-ordination of the UK’s contribution to Operation Opson. Many years ago as a civil servant I was the lead official on the Food Safety Act 1990 and I believe very strongly in the importance of a good regime – both a sound legal framework and proper enforcement. You will hear later from Andy Morling the head of the FSA’s new food crime unit on their plans to address the vital challenge of consumer protection and safety.

Food safety is important. The common practice hundreds of years ago of selling underweight loaves led to the phrase “a baker’s dozen” – 13 loaves, to make sure the customer did not lose out.

On Tuesday, the Channel 4 programme ‘food unwrapped’ gave a very clear steer to consumers – if you buy what is labelled as ‘Prosecco on tap’ – you are being ripped off – Prosecco is only available in bottles. The UK market is significant, and criminals are clearly targeting the fact that consumers enjoy this brand to make illicit money

The globalisation of the food market and creation of international transport networks to support it mean that food stuffs are routinely moved around the world. This means great opportunities but real risks when it comes to monitoring the food supply chains. The horse meat scandal of 2013 provided a timely reminder of the complexity of supply chains and the risks and challenges we face with no respect for borders.

Professor Chris Elliott’s report into food safety published last year (2014) described the UK as having one of the safest supply chains in the world. While that gives some reassurance, this government is committed to ensuring that this safety is maintained and built upon. We are clear that criminal activities which undermine public safety and legitimate business will not be tolerated and we established the Food Crime Unit that Professor Elliot recommended.

Role of Operation Opson

This is why Operation Opson is such a critical initiative. The network built by Interpol and Europol is an innovative one. The opportunity for a small trading standards or environmental health team to track the origins of foodstuffs in Africa, Asia or South America is a reality because of Opson.

Over the 5 years of its life, Operation Opson has grown from the original 11 countries to include more than 50 this year. I am proud to say that the IPO has been involved every year so far. As part of last year’s operation, UK Trading Standards seized 2,500 litres of counterfeit or illicit wines and spirits in a single month. I don’t need to tell you that counterfeit alcohol can even be lethal.

The risk and impact of fake spirits came into focus a few years ago when 47 people lost their lives in the Czech Republic as a result of criminals using methanol to make counterfeit vodka. Several people are serving life sentences for their part in this dreadful criminal activity.

This year regional collaboration will be steered by the Government Agencies Intelligence Network which brings together a number of agencies from the Gangmasters Licensing Authority through to the UK Border Force and the most recent addition the Food Standards Agency’s Food Crime Unit. I hope this will lead to even more effective activities and outcomes.

Opson also provides a great opportunity for the industry to engage with government and enforcement agencies. I was pleased to hear that the International Federation of Spirit Producers was training front line staff to tackle the issue of fake spirits and help reduce the risks to consumers.

You will hear some outstanding examples of collaboration and co-ordination today. The South East Regional Asset Recovery Team has consistently delivered positive IP crime results, seizing criminal assets and cash and securing convictions and prison sentences. I look forward to visiting their team in the near future to gain personal insight into their work.

The discovery of an illegal vodka factory in Derbyshire last year was very worrying. You will hear later today from the officer involved in that case and the challenges in tracking the criminals involved in this trade.

Protecting public health and the consumer is of paramount importance. But we cannot ignore the impact on legitimate businesses and the UK economy either. Last year 35,000 branded but empty vodka bottles were seized on their way to being filled. That not only posed a risk to genuine spirit producers, their income and possibly jobs, but would have cost the Treasury £400,000 in lost revenue.

I am pleased to see representatives from 10 government departments here today as well as some overseas agencies including the Food Standards Ireland and the Douane (French Customs). We expect our departments to work closely together to protect the public and crack criminal networks. Success in public partnerships comes from having joined up enforcement of the law. The successes of Opson in the UK have revolved around partnerships between industry and law enforcement – the delegates from industry here can be assured we want this partnership to continue and develop.

The wider context

We also need to bear in mind wider government policy. This government is giving strong support to IP and has undertaken to make Britain the best place in Europe to innovate, patent new ideas and set up and expand a business. We have also set out an ambitious trade and competitiveness agenda

With the increasing emphasis on, and support for, UK companies to export and operate abroad as part of the UK’s economic recovery and growth, the opportunities and risks grow. One of these challenges for the food and drink industry, which is an integral part of our successful manufacturing and agricultural base, will be the exposure to food crime and how they can respond to that.

Sadly I cannot stay for the rest of the conference, but I look forward to a report on the outcome. Can I leave you with 3 questions:

  1. How can each of you work with colleagues in Opson to make sure this targeted activity becomes business as usual for you?
  2. How can we share best practice and innovative ideas to secure the integrity of the import and export food chain; and
  3. How can your own organisation raise awareness of fake and substandard food – not to alarm but to anticipate and avoid risks?

If we can make progress on these issues together, we will be making progress against the threat of food crime in the UK. Consumers, industry and the supply chain will be grateful for our efforts.

Thank you for coming today. I wish you every success as part of the important and growing international Opson community.

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Press release: £80 million support package for SSI workers and local economy

The government has today (2 October 2015) announced a package worth up to £80 million to support people who have lost their jobs as a result of the mothballing of SSI’s Redcar plant and invest in the future of the Tees Valley economy.

The package includes:

  • funding for affected workers to train at local further education colleges and tailored support for them via Jobcentre Plus
  • finance to assist workers if they want to start up their own business and for local small businesses to grow and create jobs

Full details of the package are being worked through and discussed with local stakeholders. The government will also consider proposals put forward by the local taskforce being led by Amanda Skelton, Chief Executive of Redcar and Cleveland Borough Council. Business Secretary Sajid Javid and Business Minister Anna Soubry will both be attending a meeting of the taskforce in Redcar today.

Business Secretary Sajid Javid said:

This is an extremely difficult time for the workforce at SSI and the local community. The package we are announcing today will provide important support to workers and the local economy. Across government we will continue to focus on providing assistance where we can.

After weeks of discussions the government can also confirm that the company made a last minute and unrealistic request for the taxpayer to make an open-ended funding commitment to maintain the coke ovens in Redcar.

The government cannot accept the request. On the basis of the limited business case it was given, the government has no confidence that this is a realistic proposal for taxpayers to support. In addition, it would be illegal and in breach of state aid rules. The company has never made a profit and the board’s proposal would do nothing to address the huge debts outstanding to local suppliers and other parties.

The Thai parent company of SSI UK has also posted on its website that it has entered “rehabilitation” under Thai law. Clearly liquidation in the UK is a risk.

The government will be holding a steel summit on Friday 16 October 2015. Steel companies, MPs, trade unions, Welsh and Scottish government representatives will be invited to look at how best to work together to find solutions to the challenges being faced in the current very difficult global market conditions. It will also start mapping out a path to a sustainable future for the industry.

Notes to editors:

  1. The government is also currently considering a landmark devolution proposal from Tees Valley which would devolve powers from Whitehall into the hands of local people and businesses.
  2. Providing direct financial aid to the steel industry is illegal under state aid rules. Government agencies have worked tirelessly to help the company where we can and within the bounds of the law.
  3. Since 2013 the government has paid £47.7 million in compensation to steelmakers to mitigate the impact of climate change policy on electricity costs.
  4. In July 2015, the government voted for the extension of EU anti-dumping measures on Chinese wire rod products. The government is aware of the impact of imports on the industry and will consider further cases as they arise.
  5. The government has identified a pipeline of over 500 infrastructure projects to help the industry win contracts and taken steps to ensure business gets the most out of procurement opportunities through the government’s ‘Contracts Finder’ portal.
  6. The government is undertaking the most wide-ranging review of national business rates in a generation.

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Speech: British business successes

It was great to hear that litany of British businesses successes.

But Charlie, when you said that “everyone” needs a Tangle Teezer hairbrush. Are you sure you meant everyone? I should add that the 1 haircare product that I do use is also made here in the UK. Mr Sheen.

I know that a couple of years ago the Chancellor stood here and talked a bit about his personal experience of private business. How he grew up watching his dad running the family firm. A firm that employs hundreds of people, turns over millions of pounds, and sells its designer wallpaper right around the world. My early exposure to private business was rather different. The clothes shop my dad ran, for the most part, never had more than 7 employees – him, my mum and, during the school holidays, me and my 4 brothers. That’s why I know more about 1970s ladies fashions than any other male MP. As for exports. Well, I think we once sold a skirt to someone in Wales.

But whether you’re running a small fashion retailer in Bristol, or an international wallpaper designer on the King’s Road.

Whether you’re making folding bicycles or folding ballet pumps.

Whether you’re a kitchen-table start-up or a centuries old family enterprise.

You all face the same challenges when you’re running your own business:

  • you’re highly exposed to the ups and downs of the economy
  • a new product line could grow the business if it works, or bring it crashing down if it fails
  • one late payment from a major client can wreak havoc with your cash flow
  • it’s rarely easy to find the expert advice you need to help your business expand
  • and even if you’ve got a great idea, finance from sceptical banks can be hard to come by
  • you can’t even rely on Dragon’s Den, as Shaun Pulfrey found!

But despite all the barriers, despite all the challenges, the people here tonight have come out on top.

This room is filled with successful businessmen and women. In brewing, retailing, manufacturing, publishing, even corn-popping, you know what it takes to reach the top.

You know how many obstacles you have to overcome.

And you know the scale of the challenge that British businesses faced just 5 years ago:

  • the worst recession in almost a century
  • the biggest budget deficit since the Second World War
  • the world’s largest bank bailout
  • a nation saddled with debt and an economy struggling to grow

When we came to power, in 2010, we knew that Britain couldn’t have a sustainable recovery without a thriving private sector.

And that’s why we’ve been working tirelessly to support business leaders like you.

Now I know this evening is all about what private businesses have achieved, and I don’t want to be accused of stealing your thunder.

But as Ruby just talked so convincingly about the importance of self-promotion, I’m sure you’ll forgive me for telling you a little bit about what we’ve been doing to help!

  • we’ve cut red tape and regulation, giving you the flexibility and freedom to run your companies the way you want to run them
  • we’ve cut corporation tax, so you can invest more of your profits in continued success
  • we’ve introduced a new employer National Insurance Contribution allowance, lifting 450,000 employers out of NICs altogether
  • we’ve created a £1.2 billion package to put a 2% cap on increases in your business rates

British Business Bank programmes are already supporting £2.3 billion of finance to 40,000 smaller businesses.

UKTI is helping you access new markets overseas. Only this month I was in China and India, where British private companies are doing just that.

The Start-Up Loans programme has provided entrepreneurs with more than 30,000 loans worth well over £155 million.

And the Business Growth Service has brought together a huge range of advice and expertise to help you expand.

Combining dedicated, dynamic entrepreneurs with a pro-business, pro-growth government has really delivered results.

  • employment is up – in the last 5 years, we have created more jobs than the rest of the EU put together
  • inflation is down
  • the British economy is growing faster than any of our major rivals
  • the number of small and medium-sized companies that are exporting just keeps on going up

But we’re not about to put up our feet and say “job done”.

I know that businesses like yours have massive potential for further growth, but surveys show that a shortage of skills and finance are hampering that.

So from next April we’re abolishing employer national insurance contributions on apprentices under the age of 25, making it easier than ever for you to take on and train the next generation of talent.

In January we’ll permanently increase the Annual Investment Allowance.

Not just doubling it, or event trebling it, but raising it by massive 700% so you can spend more on the equipment you need in order to expand.

We’re rolling out Growth Hubs across the country, helping you access support where and when you need it most.

And then there’s the Enterprise Bill, which started its passage through Parliament last month.

The bill will cement the UK’s position as the best place in Europe to start and grow a business.

It will cut red tape, reform business rates, make it easier for small businesses to resolve disputes, reward entrepreneurship, generate jobs, boost wages and offer people opportunity at every stage of their lives.

Because this is a government that stands behind you, not in your way.

A government that is unashamedly pro-business, and believes that successful businesses are an asset to be treasured, not a problem to be dealt with.

When I was asked to speak at tonight’s award ceremony, I didn’t hesitate to accept.

Not because of the excellent catering, or because of the quality of the company – although it is of course a pleasure to spend the evening with Charlie!

I wanted to join you here because tonight is all about celebrating private business.

And that’s something politicians simply don’t do enough.

As we’ve already heard, the vast majority of British businesses are in private hands.

They employ millions of people, pay billions in tax, generate over a trillion pounds of revenue.

Yet, too many Business Secretaries have overlooked the private business sector in favour of the more glamorous listed companies. The big names and bright lights of Paternoster Square and Wall Street.

But all businesses start life as private businesses.

Without you there would be no IPOs, no flotations, no stock market.

And without you we wouldn’t have some of Britain’s biggest, best, most dynamic and most exciting companies.

It’s been said that while good companies meet needs, great companies create markets.

And when I look at the list of nominees here tonight I see a list of great companies who have done just that.

So let me be very clear – this is one Business Secretary who appreciates private business.

Who understands the challenges you face, the support you need and, above all, the contribution that you make.

And that is why I’m here tonight.

  • because successful companies should be applauded.
  • because entrepreneurs should be saluted.
  • because private business deserves to be celebrated.

Good luck to all the nominees, congratulations to all the winners, and have a great evening.

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