Late settlement of invoices may be a nuisance to big business - but to smaller enterprises it can be a crippling or even fatal.

That was the message from a meeting at the European Parliament in Brussels where MEPs were briefed on the problem.

Anthea McIntyre, Conservative employment spokesman in the European Parliament, said: "As someone who has run a small business for twenty five years, I know only too well that larger companies can be blind to the problems of small and micro businesses, who do not have the cash resources to wait for payment or the human resources to chase late payers."

She was speaking after hearing a presentation from the Federation of Small Businesses, which is calling for a culture change across bigger companies to cut out supply-chain bullying and prioritise prompt payment.

The Federation is proposing a range of measures to address the issue, including a requirement for all FTSE 350 companies to sign up to a Prompt Payment Code and greater powers for the Small Business Commission to challenge culprits.

Miss McIntyre, Conservative MEP for the West Midlands, said:

"We have to realise that in many small businesses the managing director is also the accounts manager, HR manager, health and safety officer and credit controller.

"The real working week is spent finding new customers and delivering goods and services. The admin - including checking who has settled their invoice - has to wait until evenings and weekends."

"The impact of late payment can be absolutely crippling - in terms of both money and time wasted in chasing payment. In the worst cases such cash flow problems can spell the end for a small or fledgling company.

"Bigger concerns need to step up and make sure they look after their smaller suppliers instead of driving them to despair by dawdling over payment."

Anthea McIntyre has welcomed today's announcement that Birmingham will host the Commonwealth Games in 2022.

The Conservative MEP for the West Midlands said: "I want to congratulate Andy Street and the whole of the bid team for bringing the games to the region.

"It will put us on the international stage and show the world what a wonderful place this is - not just for sport but for culture, industry, education and commerce.

"The games will benefit the whole of the city region and beyond, as well as Birmingham itself. I for one cannot wait to watch the spectacle with pride."

 

The problem of preserving the wild relatives of crop species as a vital gene bank was highlighted in the European Parliament at a special hearing of the Agriculture and Rural Affairs committee.

The hearing in Brussels was organised by committee member Anthea McIntyre, Conservative MEP for the West Midlands, and featured a key note address by Dr. Nigel Maxted, senior lecturer at Birmingham University and an expert in conservation techniques.

He highlighted the huge value of crop wild relatives (CWRs) as a source of genetic improvement through cross-breeding for traits such as pest-resistance and yield-improvement in existing crop species.

But he said climate change and habitat loss had left wild relatives increasingly under threat - and they were being poorly conserved. Nearly half of the hotspots where valuable CWRs were endangered were in Europe, he said, and although conservation responses had been formulated they were rarely implemented.

Dr Maxted stressed: "If we want to use CWRs in the future we have to conserve them now.

"We need a full programme of diversity conservation, integrated at local, national, international and global level."

Miss McIntyre, whose successful parliamentary report on Agricultural Technology last year highlighted the importance of genetic diversity, said the hearing had exceeded all her expectations.

She said:  "There is a very direct link between food security and bio-diversity.

"I wonder whether the stewardship section of the Common Agricultural Policy should be adapted specifically to encourage the conservativation of CWRs. This seems like a positive way to  incentivise farmers to make a difference."

Other speakers included Susanne Barth, research associate at Trinity College, Dublin, and Nicolas Roux, genetic resources conservationist at Biodiversity International.

News of an agreement between the EU and UK has been welcomed by Anthea McIntyre, Conservative MEP for the West Midlands.

She said: "These talks have been hard going - but that is the nature of negotiations, especially on something so significant.

"The Prime Minister has persevered and shown the mental toughness to find a way through. I think she has displayed stamina and astuteness - the two qualities you need in talks in Brussels about anything.

"People can be confident in the Theresa May’s promise: 'Whether you voted Leave or Remain, I am determined to deliver an outcome that works in the best interests of everyone across the United Kingdom.'

"Now at last the negotiation can start looking forwards instead of backwards - at the way we work together in future instead of the divorce terms.

"Things won't get any easier, but now we can start talking about building a mutually prosperous future."


Senior MEP Anthea McIntyre has welcomed a last minute reprieve for the much-used weedkiller glyphosate after it was belatedly granted a fresh licence for continued use across the European Union.

The decision to grant the herbicide a licence for a further five years was reached today (Mon) by the EU Commission's  Standing Committee on Plants, Animals, Food and Feed, comprising representatives of the 28 member states, after a series of meetings this year failed reach consensus.

The approval comes just a few days before the current licence expires on December 15, which left many farmers fearing a sudden ban with drastic effects.

Miss McIntyre, Conservative MEP for the West Midlands, said: "The scaremongering and indecision over this product had left farmers and growers fearing they were staring over a cliff edge, so this will be greeted with enormous relief."

The popular agent, commonly sold to famers and gardeners under the brand name Roundup, came under suspicion after a World Health Organisation report labelled it a suspected carcinogen; but hundreds of separate, peer-reviewed studies have shown this not to be the case.

Earlier this month, a further independent and long-term study from the National Cancer Institute found no association between glyphosate and non-Hodgkin lymphoma.

Miss McIntyre, member of the European Parliament's Agriculture Committee, said: "It should never have taken this long to renew the licence and it should have been renewed for a full 15 years but the last minute reprieve and the licence for five years is welcome. 

"Many farmers are making a big effort to build up the levels of organic matter in soils by using ground cover crops and “no-till” farming methods, backed up by application of glyphosate. This gives us carbon sequestration, protection from soil erosion and avoidance of water evaporation.

"A de facto ban on glyphosate would have been a shocking and unscientific backward step.

"Farmers would have had to fall back on mechanical weed control. That would mean 25 per cent increase in greenhouse gas emissions and a significant impact on farm bird life - including skylarks, partridge, lapwing. 

"For a zero Improvement in public health and safety, we would have been worsening food security, soil quality, biodiversity and climate change."