Esther McVey speaks to St Albans businesses after Brexit Commons vote

Work and Pensions Secretary Esther McVey arrives in Downing Street. Photo: Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire.

Work and Pensions Secretary Esther McVey arrives in Downing Street. Photo: Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire. - Credit: PA

Work and Pensions Secretary Esther McVey has spoken at a St Albans Chamber of Commerce business breakfast after the House of Commons held its latest votes on Brexit.

Ms McVey addressed an array of business owners and third parties like St Albans Business Improvement District (BID), St Albans Enterprise Agency and the district council.

She said: “People have said Brexit is tricky for businesses, but when I speak to people across the country, they do not have Brexit as their number one concern.

“They are concerned about a potential Marxist government and a run on the pound and they talk about the fourth industrial revolution with changes to robotics and artificial intelligence.”

She said government and business work best when they have a strong and positive relationship.

St Albans BID manager Helen Burridge was the first to ask a question: “What has come up from BID representatives is business rates are decimating the high street. Given the legislative burden of Brexit, what is the likelihood of any outcome from the High Street 2030 inquiry making it onto the statute book and having an effect on the high street?”

Ms McVey said: “In the immediate future, probably not. Business rates have to be sorted out, but at the moment, there is a lot of time on the floor of the House with Brexit, as we have got so much legislation to come through.

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“These are the biggest and most important things we have got to get right. In a post-Brexit world we have to make sure we have strong buoyant businesses not being suffocated by excessive business rates.”

Citizens Advice chief executive June Chapman said people were coming to them complaining about the newly-introduced Universal Credit, which Ms McVey’s department is responsible for, as they were finding it was taking three times longer than before to navigate the system, which is wholly online.

Ms McVey said jobseekers need to know IT skills, so putting the system online was intended to encourage people to develop those.

She added it was a small cohort of around eight per cent of site users who did not have these skills.

The breakfast was sponsored by St Albans-based chartered accountants Mercer & Hole as part of the annual St Albans Business Festival, which the Chamber organises.

Other events in the Festival calendar include a foraging walk with Verulam Arms on Thursday and a networking brunch at The Potting Shed on Friday.

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