My background before I entered Parliament was in business, and for almost 25 years I worked for and with small businesses, including the optical industry and our own family electronics and manufacturing firm. It will therefore come as no surprise that I am a supporter of enterprise and entrepreneurship, and that’s because I believe it is fundamental to the British Economy and the success of our local area, as well as being part of the Midlands Engine for growth.

Whether it’s manufacturing, retail, engineering, catering, hairdressing or one of many other sectors, our small businesses are the backbone of our local economy and they are vital to our local communities. They are often a key part of the local town and village centres that we value so much, bringing a good balance and variety of independent shops and businesses to the High Street.

Over the last three years we have seen the development of Small Business Saturday. Organised for the first shopping Saturday of December it is the UKs most successful small business campaign, focussing on local businesses and raising awareness of what we have right on our doorstep. Christmas is a good time to shop local but to keep our High Streets vibrant we must remember the importance of shopping local all year round.

My “Small Business Saturday” began with an early visit to the Herbarium in Aldridge, arriving just before the daily delivery of fresh flowers. It was then on to Oakdene Nursery in Streetly before I headed to see Harjit and Jodie Singh at their Nisa Convenience store in High Heath and then Kind Thoughts in Pelsall where I was particularly impressed with the Christmas Baubles, painted to depict local scenes. A great gift idea and something which will be on my tree when I get time to decorate it! The day was rounded off with a very welcome cup of coffee and a delicious mince pie at the Coffee House in Brownhills.

The Government’s Enterprise Bill is due to complete its stages in the House of Lords on the 15th December and will then be debated by the House of Commons. Three key features are; the establishment of a Small Business Commissioner, reform the business rates appeal system, give statutory underpinning to apprenticeships and require insures to pay insurance claims within a reasonable time.

At this time of year no week would be complete without a few Christmas events and last weekend was no exception. Stunning displays of Christmas Trees and twinkling fairy lights at Aldridge Methodist Church, and All Saints Parish Church in Streetly, left me feeling inspired and thinking I need to be more creative with my decorating next year! And even a damp start to Sunday did not dampen the festive spirit at the Pelsall Frost Fayre.