I HAVE been championing our business community since before I was first elected as MP for Central Devon. Even before I entered Parliament, as an entrepreneur who started and grew my own successful business, I had a clear understanding of what local companies need from government and spent time exploring the many issues that matter to them.

In government not least at the Treasury I was able to bring in many key changes including business rate relief for smaller traders.

Across the constituency I come across so many enterprises and meet many people who are working day in day out to serve their customers, grow their business and increase local employment.

Whether it is in our towns or rural areas, most people are employed in small enterprises underscoring how vital these businesses are to our local economy and communities.

I recently visited a great business at Heathfield, Bovey Tracy.

Careflex make specialist chairs that are used within the NHS, local authorities and care homes. They employ 65 people from the local area and are going from strength-to-strength.

It was great to find out more about a Central Devon-based business that is having such a positive impact on people’s lives whilst manufacturing products right here in Devon in their state-of-the-art facilities.

I am also focused on making sure we have the right infrastructure in Central Devon for businesses to thrive, and campaigned alongside local people for over a decade to get a regular passenger rail service between Okehampton and Exeter via Crediton.

The successful campaign delivered a much-needed economic boost to businesses in and around Okehampton and also had a positive impact on Crediton, giving people travelling between Okehampton and Exeter the option to stop off to shop in the town.

In Westminster, I have also supported much legislation aimed at helping small businesses, and as treasury minister I played an instrumental role in reducing business rates for the majority of small high street traders by a third.

As Chair of the House of Commons Treasury Select Committee I also played a key role in scrutinising the Government’s support measures for businesses during the coronavirus pandemic.

The committee was successful in pressing for greater support for the self-employed and for workers on maternity or paternity pay who returned to work after the cut-off dates for support schemes.

More recently as Secretary of State for the Department of Work and Pensions, one of my top priorities has been looking at how we get more people back into the labour market.

As well as being important for growing our economy, managing inflation, and improving living standards, getting more people into good jobs is also good for those individuals and the best route out of poverty.

With four million more people in work since 2010, unemployment halved and a fair welfare system focused on getting claimants into work our plan is working.

I will continue to support our local economy by helping create the right climate for our independent businesses to flourish.