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Revealed: an entrepreneurial MP

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David Simpson is hardly a household-name in his own household. Yet, during yesterday’s House of Commons debate on education, universities, skills and housing, his was among the more useful contributions.

Until now, Real Business had been unaware of the Democratic Unionist MP for Upper Bann (although others may recall him as the man who unseated former UUP leader David Trimble) but we’ll be watching this self-made businessman from the outskirts of Belfast with interest in future.

Simpson started his business life at 19, starting a food manufacturing business; he remains senior partner at the Universal Meat Company. Times were tough for the novice entrepreneur – "I was what one would call wet behind the ears, and I admit there were times when others in the business world took advantage of me and my family within that business because of my lack of experience."

Contributing to yesterday’s debate, Simpson focused on the lack of basic skills of those moving into the business world. "A large pharmaceutical company called Almac, which is based in my constituency, is considering developing a new site to employ some 300 to 400 young people—technicians and young scientists. In my recent meeting with the company, I discovered that it honestly does not know where it is going to get those people from, unless it looks to eastern Europe or the United States."

Warming to his theme, Simpson had a pop at new-style educational qualifications: "There is absolutely no point in someone’s going to university, getting an honours degree in karaoke singing or whatever, and then looking to get a job in the real world."

He demanded that, in a slowing economy with the government pumping money into the system, trade unions curb their wage demands. And he asked where the government was on meeting its target of 240,000 new affordable homes by 2016.

We don’t imagine we’ll be voting DUP in the future (although the countryside around Craigavon does have its charms), but we do like the cut of the Ulsterman’s jib.

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