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Self-employment

Oral Answers to Questions — Work and Pensions – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 21st November 2016.

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Photo of Bridget Phillipson Bridget Phillipson Labour, Houghton and Sunderland South 12:00 am, 21st November 2016

What recent assessment he has made of trends in the level of self-employment.

Photo of Damian Hinds Damian Hinds The Minister of State, Department for Work and Pensions

Many people aspire to be their own boss. Although the bulk of the growth in employment in recent years has been in employment, there are now 4.7 million self-employed people in the UK labour market, accounting for approximately 15% of everyone in work.

Photo of Bridget Phillipson Bridget Phillipson Labour, Houghton and Sunderland South

I am grateful to the Minister for his answer, but notwithstanding what he has said there is a growing issue of bogus self-employment. Trade unions such as the GMB have been at the forefront of exposing such practices, so will he commit to working with trade unions as part of the ongoing Taylor review?

Photo of Damian Hinds Damian Hinds The Minister of State, Department for Work and Pensions

Of course, what the hon. Lady refers to does not apply to the great majority of people in self-employment, but some concerns have been expressed. The growth of atypical employment was behind the Prime Minister quite rightly saying that there would be a proper review under Matthew Taylor. That review will look at a whole range of things, as its terms of reference are quite broad: rights, responsibilities, representation, training, representation of under-represented groups and so on.

Photo of John Howell John Howell Conservative, Henley

I am glad we are doing so much to help the self-employed get into business, but so many of them are on the legacy system for support rather than universal credit. What are we doing for those people?

Photo of Damian Hinds Damian Hinds The Minister of State, Department for Work and Pensions

My hon. Friend makes a very good point. We are launching a test—face-to-face and on a voluntary basis, from Jobcentre Plus work coaches—for self-employed people currently in receipt of tax credits. A range of support material is also available at gov.uk.

Photo of Margaret Greenwood Margaret Greenwood Shadow Minister (Work and Pensions)

Ordering presents online is now a normal part of Christmas for many people, but there have been disturbing reports recently of delivery drivers who are classed as self-employed working dangerously long hours for less than the national living wage. Those workers make a vital contribution to the functioning of the digital economy. Will the Minister commit to meeting Labour’s five tests for social security for the self-employed?

Photo of Damian Hinds Damian Hinds The Minister of State, Department for Work and Pensions

I join the hon. Lady in recognising the necessity of looking at these issues. National living wage enforcement is very important. That is why we have raised the budget for it, as well raising the maximum penalty. As for the exact definition of self-employment, she will know that there are variations in definition for tax purposes and employment law purposes. The Matthew Taylor review is looking at precisely these issues to make sure that the appropriate protections are in place while enabling more and more people to avail themselves of the opportunities in the new economy.

Photo of Desmond Swayne Desmond Swayne Conservative, New Forest West

What is the Minister doing to help disabled people into self-employment?

Photo of Damian Hinds Damian Hinds The Minister of State, Department for Work and Pensions

My right hon. Friend makes a very good point. We know that many more disabled people want to get into work, and one route is through self-employment. I am pleased to be able to say that more than a fifth of the participants in the new enterprise allowance scheme are people with a declared disability, but there is a great deal more we can do.