Minister’s absence noted at National Enterprise Network conference

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The government’s business team came in for some veiled criticism at the National Enterprise Network’s annual conference, held in London, where chief executive Dawn Whiteley was underwhelmed, to say the least, by the lack of any official representatives at the event.

“You may have noticed we have had no MPs or ministers here today,” she said: “On this occasion the MP (Margot James) declined our request to be here – and declined our offer of a meeting. And we are not the only representative body she has declined.

“She is the Minister for Small Business in a department that does not appear to have a remit for small business. It may well be that I’ll give her the benefit of the doubt but I can’t help wondering whether she doesn’t quite know what her role needs to be yet and she’s trying to get her head round it. That’s the way I’m looking at it. And of course we will keep bashing on her door and eventually we hope we will get in.”

Writing in the NEN’s annual report, Whiteley said there were tough times ahead. “Following the results of a surprising election in May 2015 and an even more surprising referendum result in June 2016, this has probably been a more turbulent time than many of us have ever known but I’ve no doubt that our membership will rise to the challenge and find a way to ride the storm.”

At the close of the conference, delegates celebrated the fact that Whiteley was awarded an MBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours in recognition of her services to business support and enterprise.