Business secretary Vince Cable fielded questions from local employers on Monday night when he addressed a meeting of Southwark Chamber of Commerce.
Along with Bermondsey & Old Southwark MP Simon Hughes, Dr Cable listened to Southwark business leaders' concerns about the planning system, bus lanes inward investment, support for the pub trade, graduate recruitment, pensions, venture capital funding and the difficulties encountered by small businesses seeking to borrow from banks.
During a discussion on the lack of suitable office spaces for small start-up enterprises wanting to take the first step up from being home-based, Dr Cable joked that Southwark had one very obvious empty office block that could be used for such purposes.
"It's a slightly cheeky suggestion, but you might want to ask the owner of the Shard, until he gets some commercial tenants," said the minister.
The business secretary said that hearing the concerns raised by Southwark traders had helped to keep him anchored in the real world.
"I see a large part of my job as going round talking to business groups like yours," he said.
"The kind of issues you've raised about bank credit and procurement; I know these problems exist but actually having them put in very direct practical terms is very helpful for me."
He added: "I want to remain close to the chambers of commerce as they are the authentic voices of business."
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