Former Conservative MP Paul Uppal named small business commissioner

Leading an independent office tasked with helping small businesses, Uppal says his main priority will be to stamp out late payment practices

Paul Uppal, a former Conservative MP and entrepreneur, has been appointed small business commissioner by business secretary Greg Clark.

Proposed way back in July 2015 by then small business minister Anna Soubry, the long overdue appointment should come as a welcome relief for start-ups and small businesses across the country.

Part of the government’s Industrial Strategy, Uppal will lead an independent office tasked with empowering small firms by both helping them in disputes against larger companies as well as trying to end the late payment epidemic.

Seeking to provide general advice and information on matters such as resolving disputes, including signposting small firms to existing support services, all assistance will be delivered through the commissioner’s website.

Who is Paul Uppal?

  • Born in Birmingham in 1967 to Sikh parents of East African descent
  • He studied politics and sociology at the University of Warwick
  • A small business owner for over 20 years, Uppal worked within the real estate sector.
  • He has been married to Kashmir Matto, a lawyer, since 1991 and the couple have three children
  • An avid Wolverhampton Wanderers fan, he currently holds a season ticket at the Molineux Stadium and is a trustee of the second largest Gurudwara (Sikh Temple) in Wolverhampton
  • He served as a Tory MP for Wolverhampton South West between May 2010 and March 2015
  • Voting against an EU referendum in October 2011, Uppal campaigned for Britain Stronger in Europe leading up to the Brexit referendum in 2016
  • According to his website Uppal has “run his own business and, in his time, has been his own builder, secretary, accountant, lawyer and cleaner”

Uppal said:

“Running your own business can be a very lonely experience and my priority will be ensuring small firms feel supported as well as helping to create an overall impression that business isn’t necessarily cut throat.

“In fact, successful businesses are built on integrity, entrepreneurial spirit and trusting relationships and I want to highlight that Britain can be the best place in the world for new entrepreneurs to establish and grow their own businesses.”

Greg Clark, business secretary, said:

“Small businesses are the backbone of our economy, providing jobs and opportunities across the country. 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.

“Small businesses are the backbone of our economy, providing jobs and opportunities across the country.

“Supporting Britain’s 5.5 million small businesses is at the heart of this government’s Industrial Strategy, and his ambition to tackle unfair payment practices will help support our goal to create an economy that works for all.

“I wish Paul luck in his new role, and I look forward to working with him in the future.”

Reaction to Paul Uppal’s appointment as small business commissioner

Simon McVicker, IPSE director of policy, said:

“Late payment and non-payment by clients are a huge barrier to successfully running a business and the new Commissioner needs to hit the ground running and tackle this head-on. The average freelancer currently loses almost 20 days a year chasing invoices and this must change.

“As someone who ran his own business, Mr Uppal knows how difficult being self-employed can be. He needs to use this experience to fight for the interests of our smallest firms.”

Seb Maley, CEO of Qdos Contractor, said: 

“The newly-established post and appointment of a small business commissioner marks an important step in the right direction. It sends a signal from the Government that they are actively looking to improve the landscape for freelancers and contractors.

“We’d like to welcome Paul into his role and hope to work with him going forward.

“We firstly encourage Paul to put forward the case for a rethink around how the tax system affects those brave enough to strike out alone and work independently.

“Recent and potential IR35 reform and the slashing of tax-free dividend allowance have led to 95% of freelancers to believe the Government is reducing the benefits of working independently.

“The government must work to win back the support of the self-employed. For Britain to be the best place in the world for new entrepreneurs, we need a tax system which works for everyone, and takes into consideration the added risk and lack of security that this way of working brings.”

Paul Christensen, CEO of Previse, said:

“Paul Uppal has a crucial task ahead of him. This country’s economy is built on the hard work and innovation of small businesses, yet late payments are strangling economic growth and causing 50,000 business deaths a year by blocking up the payments chain.

“As the UK prepares to leave the EU, it will be even more vital that we eliminate as much friction in the supply chain as possible, ending late payments is a key part of that.”