The UK government has confirmed that its new Small Business commissioner, Paul Uppal, will take up the post from outgoing Small Business Secretary Sir Vince Cable. The UK's first Small Business Secretary was appointed by the UK government in the Enterprise Act of last year. He worked as a senior advisor to Sir Michael Caine, and former chairman of HSBC plc. Sir Vince Cable is now secretary of state for Business, before taking up the role of Small Business Secretary.
Mr Uppal will be the fourth person to hold the esteemed senior role in government, following in the footsteps ofisters like Sajid Jamsil and Roger Cook. Sir Vince, also a former director of the BBC, has already indicated that he will continue to take up the role of UK business commissioner while Mr Uppal takes up his own appointment as the first Small business commissioner. This means that the role will be left open for a filling which should be made by the autumn of next year at the earliest possible time.
It has been speculated that the role might be made redundant once Mr Uppal officially steps down from his post, but this has yet to be confirmed by either the department or the Prime Minister. The reason behind this speculation is that Sir Vince has made it clear that he wants to see greater reform within the sector, which could possibly lead to further changes to the position of the Small business secretary, thereby creating a need for Mr Uppal's replacement. This may, however, simply be the case as the PM may move towards different appointments in light of the ongoing row over the Investigatory Powers Act. There are also reports that Sir Michael Caine is considering stepping aside from his role as SBS chair to take on the small business commissioner role.
If Mr Uppal's plans do come to fruition then Mr Caine is expecting to be welcomed back into the fold of cabinet. The role of the small business commissioner is currently being taken over by Sir Brian Campbell, who previously was responsible for the business department. The current cabinet does not have a leader yet, which is why it is important that there is a reappointment process for the commissioner, so that the post can be kept open for Mr Uppal. It would be a surprise if Mr Campbell did not receive an offer to take over the role, which would mean that his reappointment as business secretary will be preceded by another reshuffle, which could see more changes to come regarding the position of business secretary.
Mr Uppal is expected to step down from his current position as SBS chair and apply for a position at the small business bureau. It is unclear at this time whether he will succeed in this role, or if he will go elsewhere entirely. The role of the SBS is currently held by Jo Swaffham Stafford, and she will remain in her post while an investigation takes place into Mr Uppal's departure from SBS. A spokesman for SBS said that the board had taken “the difficult decision” to terminate Mr Uppal's contract, but offered no explanation as to why this had happened.
Mr Uppal's exit from SBS comes at a time when there is confusion within the small business sector about the future of the UK financial services sector in the wake of the global credit crunch. One of the first measures that the UK Government took after the global economic crisis hit was the creation of the new SARB, which is an independent regulator for the financial industry. The SARB is designed to provide a transparent, uniform set of guidelines for financial companies to follow in order to ensure that they are meeting regulated standards. However, many banks and building societies have been resisting the introduction of this policy, and this has left many businesses feeling uncertain about their future in the UK. If Mr Uppal's role was taken over by someone else, it would leave the door open to a lack of guidelines for these institutions, which could leave them at greater risk of non-compliance and therefore non-regulatory recognition.
Mr Uppal is currently the only serving small business commissioner. This means that he has an important role to play in ensuring that there are appropriate regulation and supervision of the financial sector in the UK. He has also stated that he would like the role to be increased in the future in order to support growth in small businesses in the UK.
Before becoming the commissioner, Mr Uppal held different portfolios, one of which was commercial law. He started his career working as a solicitor in the City of London. Prior to taking on the current role, he was also the director of corporate commercial law at Wigram Solicitors. Prior to this he was also director of corporate affairs at the British Association of Solicitors. Mr Uppal is expecting to implement a number of reforms, which will ensure greater concentration of power in his hands. The changes would see more powers being given to an independent chair of the board of directors.
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