While all eyes were on the Conservative Party conference, the government quietly announced the appointment of a new ‘Small Business Commissioner’. But instead of giving the post to an industry expert, it handed the role to one of its own. And one who is a failed MP, at that.
A new, ‘independent’ commissioner…?
The Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS) said on Monday 2 October that it had created the job of Small Business Commissioner to:
lead an independent office tasked with empowering small businesses. The role will be crucial to supporting small businesses resolve disputes with larger businesses and will help drive a culture change in payment practices.
I am delighted to announce Paul Uppal as the first Small Business Commissioner. His extensive experience as a small business owner makes him perfectly suited to champion the interests of small business and bring about a change in culture that will create a level playing field for everyone.
But what the BEIS and Clark both apparently failed to mention was that Uppal was previously the Conservative MP for Wolverhampton South West; that he only held the office from 2010 to 2015; and that Labour has since defeated him; not once, but twice.
A property mogul?
Uppal is, though, a small business owner. He co-founded property firm Pinehurst Securities in 2001, which deals in housing development, buying and selling, and the “renting and operating of housing association” properties. The company held [pdf p3] over £11.9m in assets in 2016. And £6m of Pinehurst’s assets are in shareholder funds, of which Uppal is the majority [pdf p4] shareholder, owning 66% of the company. This makes the value of his stake just under £4m.
And it was seemingly his interest [paywall] in property which led the previous coalition government to appoint [pdf] Uppal as Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Urban Development in July 2010. In 2012, he called in parliament for companies and landlords to be exempt from paying tax on empty properties, as it was “a millstone around their necks”.
Move on. Nothing to see here.
His father, Surjit Uppal, was a director of the now-dissolved Wolverhampton Sangat Education Trust, which ran the Anand Primary School. Opened in 2013, it was criticised for being a “waste of money”, after it was given £220,000 by the government for just 20 pupils. But in 2012, Uppal appeared to invite the then PM David Cameron to visit the school once opened, and has been supportive of the free school programme more broadly.
There is no evidence to state that Uppal is not capable of the job of Small Business Commissioner. But what his appointment does show is the Tories once again appointing their ‘chums’ into positions of power within government. We already have, for example, the former Tory MP and Housing Minister Gavin Barwell now employed as Theresa May’s Chief of Staff. And with the appointment of Uppal, it indicates that, under May, it seems to be less ‘what you know’, and more ‘whom’.
– Join The Canary, so we can keep holding the powerful to account.
We need your help to keep speaking the truth
Every story that you have come to us with; each injustice you have asked us to investigate; every campaign we have fought; each of your unheard voices we amplified; we do this for you. We are making a difference on your behalf.
Our fight is your fight. You’ve supported our collective struggle every time you gave us a like; and every time you shared our work across social media. Now we need you to support us with a monthly donation.
We have published nearly 2,000 articles and over 50 films in 2021. And we want to do this and more in 2022 but we don’t have enough money to go on at this pace. So, if you value our work and want us to continue then please join us and be part of The Canary family.
In return, you get:
* Advert free reading experience
* Quarterly group video call with the Editor-in-Chief
* Behind the scenes monthly e-newsletter
* 20% discount in our shop
Almost all of our spending goes to the people who make The Canary’s content. So your contribution directly supports our writers and enables us to continue to do what we do: speaking truth, powered by you. We have weathered many attempts to shut us down and silence our vital opposition to an increasingly fascist government and right-wing mainstream media.
With your help we can continue:
* Holding political and state power to account
* Advocating for the people the system marginalises
* Being a media outlet that upholds the highest standards
* Campaigning on the issues others won’t
* Putting your lives central to everything we do
We are a drop of truth in an ocean of deceit. But we can’t do this without your support. So please, can you help us continue the fight?