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Amendment of the Law

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 2:10 pm on 19th March 2015.

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Photo of Susan Elan Jones Susan Elan Jones Opposition Whip (Commons) 2:10 pm, 19th March 2015

I agree with my hon. Friend that that is a hugely important issue. In my area there are many businesses waiting to be born that will never even reach gestation, simply because we do not give enough practical help to would-be entrepreneurs. The more than 5 million working people in our country who are self-employed face huge problems. Two thirds have no pension, and one in five cannot get a mortgage. My right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition spoke powerfully last autumn when he declared that the next Labour Government will ensure equal rights for the self-employed. That is a very important issue.

Finally, I want to use this Budget debate to seek clarity about a particular concern I have. There has been a great deal of interesting debate about the effectiveness of the new allowances for those who are married or in civil partnerships. That issue has been debated before in the House, and I am sure it will be in future. Both halves of the pantomime horse that seem to make up the coalition appear to have differing views on that issue. However, according to a written reply I received from the House of Commons Library, those who wish to claim the new transferable tax allowance for married couples and civil partners may only register for it over the internet. Given that 18% of adults in the UK cannot use the internet, the lack of options is quite surprising. Whatever our views on the efficacy and effectiveness of this allowance, it has no validity whatsoever if it is not available to those who cannot access the internet, many of whom are likely to be elderly and/or on lower incomes. Wherever we stand on this subject, there is a very real question for the Government to answer and I look forward to a response.