Mark Prisk, shadow minister for business, enterprise and regulatory reform, ran his property marketing and communication consultancy, MP2, for ten years before he was elected to his post as MP for Hertford and Stortford in 2001. In this exclusive interview, Mark talks to Startups about his early days as an entrepreneur, the Tories’ strategy for business, and Boris Johnson’s plans to champion small companies.
Tell us about your experience as an entrepreneur
I’m a chartered surveyor by profession, so having graduated and then worked for a number of big commercial firms, I set up my own business in 1991. When I started, you couldn’t have a property surveying practice linked to a planning practice. Then they changed the rules and suddenly you could link different services together. Having worked in that environment, I understood it, so I saw a niche. I ran that business until I got elected in 2001.
A recent survey suggested 60% of business owners now support the Tories. Why do you think that is?
What’s happened is twofold. First of all, slowly but surely businesses have become disenchanted with Labour. The build-up of regulations, the increase in tax, and the apparent ignorance within ministers’ offices of how business works have all become more and more obvious.
The second part of it is that the Conservative Party has been talking to businesses. In the last two years, we’ve been working with business to campaign on things like capital gains tax (CGT). We’re also setting out our ideas to cut small company corporation tax by 10% from 22p to 20p, looking to reduce the regulatory burden and making sure that we create the environment in which people not only want to start up, but can grow their business.
You say you’re campaigning against CGT increases, but under the Tories it was 40%. Isn’t that a bit hypocritical?
Going back a dozen years or more, the environment was very different. And Labour were absolutely right, ten years ago, to change the system. The problem is, that to change the system again – and particularly the way they did it, without talking to businesses – is what caused anger. That’s why we’re talking to the business community to make sure we reform it with their understanding before we announce anything.