Barnstaple business welcomes MP for work experience placement

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Staff at William C Hockin, on Roundswell Business Park, spent an afternoon with MP Nick Harvey on Friday where they used the opportunity to discuss matters affecting the haulage industry.

The visit had been co-ordinated by the Forum of Private Business – an employer support organisation – as part of its Business Buddy programme, which places MPs with a firm local to their constituency so they can see first hand the challenges currently facing small businesses.

The hot topic up for discussion during the visit was the sky-high cost of fuel and the crippling amount of duty haulage firms have to pay.

"Fuel duty in the UK is just ridiculous, and it's damaging businesses like ours and eating away at profits," said company owner Bill Hockin.

"Ultimately the entire country is affected by high fuel duty prices as that's how many goods are transported, so it's in everyone's interest that they come down. We've got the 3p rise coming in August and frankly we need to prevent that from happening. What we need though is fuel duty rates cut much more than that.

"Nick fully understood where we were coming from and said he will be putting our case to his colleagues in the Treasury.

Adding: "We've got to push our case and push it hard – it's the only way we can facilitate change. The Business Buddy scheme is a great way to help us do this."

Following his tour of the Gratton Way business and meeting staff, the MP, who is also the Armed Forces Minister, said: "The opportunity to sit down with local businesses to discuss the issues that they are facing was really welcome, and I think linking up in this way will be tremendously helpful for me in my work representing North Devon in Parliament. It was also a great way for Bill to put forward his views and concerns.
He added: "At our meeting, as well as getting a background to the business, we discussed the impact that rising fuel and duty prices are having on the way that the business operates. I also heard the problems that many businesses are experiencing with late payments and I intend to raise the issue with my colleague Vince Cable.

"The Business Buddy scheme is a great idea and I look forward to hearing more about it in the future."

Spokesman for the Forum of Private Business, Robert Downes, said: "Hauliers are under enormous pressure from spiralling fuel bills and competition from the EU where fuel tax is much lower, so there was no shortage of issues for them to talk about on Friday.

"I know that as well as fuel tax the issue of late payment was also discussed – this is another burning issue for small business.

"There was a lot for Nick to take back to Westminster with him, and we hope he keeps in touch with the team at Hockin, and that's a lot of what our Business Buddy programme is about.

"It's very easy for MPs to become isolated from the real world in the Westminster bubble. Business Buddy allows them get out in their constituencies and actually see for themselves the challenging conditions faced by small business."

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A Barnstaple-based haulier welcomed the town's Liberal Democrat MP last week for a brief stint of work experience.