Update to the oral evidence given at the House of Lords Committee meeting held on 2 June 2020 (Select Committee on Communications and Digital)
The future of journalism inquiry
This response sets out to answer the questions raised during the Committee meeting that the Small Business Commissioner has insufficient power and would benefit from being given additional powers in this area.
I therefore offer my response:
1) What powers you have relating to late payments and unfavourable payment practices and how effective these are in protecting freelance journalists
The Small Business Commissioner's principal functions are:
Following investigation and consideration of the complaint, the Commissioner can make non-binding recommendations as to how the parties could resolve their disputes.
The Office of the Small Business Commissioner (OSBC) will continue to highlight poor payment practices including the continuing trend of non-payment within the creative sector. We will use our power to publicly name those companies who fail to pay their suppliers within the agreed terms, and we will champion good practice and encourage companies to sign up to the Prompt Payment Code.
In order for the OSBC to carry out investigations we need freelance journalists to bring their concerns and complaints to us in order that we can investigate these.
The Office of the Small Business Commissioner is committed to:
The Government is completely focussed on fulfilling its manifesto commitment to clamp down on late payment and strengthen the powers of the Small Business Commissioner (SBC) to support small businesses who are least able to cover financial shortfalls and find temporary finance more difficult and more expensive to obtain.
In June 2019 BEIS published a package of policy measures to tackle late payment, which included:
BEIS are planning to consult on extending those powers, to allow the SBC to advocate for and support small businesses, as soon as they are able to. They are keen to capture as many views as possible to ensure the policy response is the right one and, in light of businesses having furloughed staff and other priorities due to the Covid crisis, consulting now is not the right thing.
The Prompt Payment Code was transferred to the OSBC in March and BEIS will engage with signatories on reforms to strengthen the Code as soon as the time is right.
BEIS Officials work closely, and meet myself and my team regularly, and share any relevant policy developments, as set out in the Small Business Commissioner Framework Document.
2 July 2020