The most important issue in Aberconwy, like much of the rest of the country, is jobs and the economy. The latest estimate is that there are 3,400 people in the constituency looking for work. There are many more looking for a better job or longer hours as they are struggling to make ends meet. Last year in his conference speech Ed Miliband talked about changing our economy to support producers and tackle predators. A key component of this is allowing small and micro-businesses to compete on a level playing field. The Welsh Labour government was elected on a manifesto which included embedding a more entrepreneurial culture in Wales. My private member’s bill would be aimed at encouraging home-grown small businesses.

The first area where we need to prioritise local SMEs is in public procurement. I’d set a limit on the proportion of the market in a particular area any particular bidder for a public sector contract could have. It makes sense in terms of local regeneration and economic opportunity to prioritise smaller local businesses, but it also makes sense for the procurer. Having too many eggs in one basket (or a small number of baskets) can put the public authority in a difficult position if there are problems with a provider and can also, particularly if there are takeovers, enable providers to eliminate competition and then hold the public authority over a barrel with regard to price.

Second, too few public sector procurement processes are won by SMEs because of the way they are structured. We should look at similar provisions to those in the US, where the Office of Government Contracting requires that a certain proportion of expenditure has to go to SMEs and some procurement exercises are reserved solely for SMEs. The OGC also has a remit to help small, disadvantaged, and women-owned small businesses get their fair share of public procurement. Perhaps because the US has historically had much less public provision and has therefore focused more on managing market failures it is more progressive than us in this area.

Finally, we’re increasingly seeing certain types of goods being sold on the internet, making internet trading platforms a key gateway to the market. With the scandal of Amazon avoiding paying corporation tax, many of us have been looking for alternatives. But not only do products sold through Amazon appear higher up in internet searches, Amazon can impose conditions on traders to prevent them supplying goods direct. Where a provider is in such a dominant position, it is important that they are regulated. My bill would require the new Competition and Markets Authority to look at such arrangements to ensure the fees charged are reasonable and that their business practices are fair – a power which would extend beyond online trading. There’s currently a debate raging in the North Wales media about whether supermarkets should have an aisle for local produce as in France or whether that would adversely affect local shops. Let’s look at the best evidence from elsewhere and build a Britain that is far more open and encouraging to small community-based businesses.


Mary Wimbury is Labour’s prospective parliamentary candidate for Aberconwy. She tweets @MaryWimbury


Photo: russell davies