In the first part of our interview Lord Young gave his opinion on what makes a great entrepreneur and his most recent initiative, Start Up Loans – and how it has created opportunities for small businesses which did not exist before. In this week’s post Lord Young gives his views on the possibility of a tech giant emerging from the UK and what he thinks of the EU (amongst various other things). Let’s get started.
When you were first brought into government, how concerned were you with the state of the business landscape in the UK (Lord Young was appointed Minister without a Portfolio in 1984)?
I got so depressed the way the country was being run. We had a terrible period with strikes, and the winter of discontent. The whole of this decade was awful and I felt something had to change. I had done work with a jewish charity [British ORT] and had experience in providing training in the voluntary sector.
I was approached by Norman Tebbit to be the chairman of the Manpower Services Commission which I did for two and a half years. I then came in as a Minister without a Portfolio to deal with unemployment. In this role I brought in the Youth Training Scheme and the first program to help people work for themselves.
How much do you think the private sector is doing at the moment to help small firms? Are we seeing enough, could we be seeing more?
I am not sure it’s the job of the private sector to help small firms. There’s one area they could be doing more – in late payment. There is much too much evidence of this happening from large firms and we are seeing this all over the place, and it’s appalling.
The government invested heavily in the Tech City initiative 5 years ago to power tech startups in East London. What was the extent of your involvement in the Tech City government initiative?
That’s an easy answer – I wasn’t involved. But that was a great example of how you can create an environment and you get critical mass – and everyone comes in.
Is it possible that the next global tech giant could come from the UK to rival the likes of Amazon, Google or Facebook in the US?
We haven’t got a big enough market. The United States is not only four or five times our market in size, their people are much more keen about taking up something new. I would be very surprised if one were to emerge from the UK. We have a lot of successful businesses, I just don’t see a big enough market for a global giant to emerge from the UK.
We have seen a number of announcements recently about a reform of business rates, the introduction of the Northern Powerhouse, and late payment and red tape being tackled. How much do you think this will help startups?
The problem we have is the EU. You cannot do anything until their law says you can. We have had more and more regulation come in over the last few years from the EU. This is why continental Europe is really slowing down and why I think we might leave when the referendum comes.
Who knows what will happen with that but what will happen, come what may – even if we stay in the EU – is that we are going to have less regulation.
We hope that you enjoyed the second part of this interview. Join us for the final part next week where we will be looking at what Lord Young has done for teaching entrepreneurship to young people.
If you are interested in reading more about small business issues, take a look at our blog.