Self-employment

Oral Answers to Questions — Work and Pensions – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 9th January 2017.

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Photo of Sir David Amess Sir David Amess Conservative, Southend West 12:00 am, 9th January 2017

What steps the Government are taking to support self-employed people.

Photo of Scott Mann Scott Mann Conservative, North Cornwall

What steps the Government are taking to support self-employed people.

Photo of David Morris David Morris Conservative, Morecambe and Lunesdale

What steps the Government are taking to support self-employed people.

Photo of Damian Green Damian Green The Secretary of State for Work and Pensions

This Government are committed to supporting new enterprises. We are building on the success of the new enterprise allowance, which has already supported 96,000 claimants to start a new business. From this year, eligibility for NEA support will be extended to include universal credit claimants who are already self-employed.

Photo of Sir David Amess Sir David Amess Conservative, Southend West

Will my right hon. Friend look again at the regulations requiring small businesses and the self-employed to use online systems for their tax affairs? Does he recognise that these people often do not have the equipment, knowledge or broadband capacity to download the complex forms, and that the process often costs time and money?

Photo of Damian Green Damian Green The Secretary of State for Work and Pensions

I am happy to tell my hon. Friend that tax affairs are not my direct responsibility, but the Treasury will have heard what he had to say. What I can say is that Jobcentre Plus is always keen to help small businesses with individual problems they may have, such as with the use of online forms, and I hope that businesses in his constituency would find the jobcentre a helpful place to consult.

Photo of Scott Mann Scott Mann Conservative, North Cornwall

In Cornwall, unemployment has continued to fall year on year to record low levels, and the county now has 61,000 self-employed people. Does my right hon. Friend agree that only under a Conservative Government can we continue to increase employment in Cornwall and further improve the creation of small businesses in those communities?

Photo of Damian Green Damian Green The Secretary of State for Work and Pensions

My hon. Friend makes a good point, and I know that in his constituency self-employment has increased by 7.6% since 2010. As I said in answer to previous questions, the UK labour market is in its strongest position for years. Clearly, the best way to promote new growth in jobs is to promote growth in small businesses, and I am delighted to hear it is going so well in Cornwall.

Photo of David Morris David Morris Conservative, Morecambe and Lunesdale

Does my right hon. Friend agree that universal credit can help the self-employed, along with the other forms of benefit the Government are putting forward for them, because it can help people who are working as well as trying to set up on their own?

Photo of Damian Green Damian Green The Secretary of State for Work and Pensions

One difference between universal credit and the previous benefits it is replacing is that people can and do continue to receive it when they are still in work. It is particularly good at coping with people who may have fluctuating earnings, as many self-employed people do, because it can be flexible enough to adjust to that. The introduction of universal credit is another brick of the edifice of helping people to set up their own businesses.

Photo of Madeleine Moon Madeleine Moon Chair, Defence Sub-Committee

What is the Secretary of State going to do about people who are classified as self-employed because of their contract of employment? They are classified as such not because they have set up their own small business, but because their employer requires them to sign a contract saying that they are self-employed, which means that they get no sick pay and no annual leave. How is he going to help them?

Photo of Damian Green Damian Green The Secretary of State for Work and Pensions

I agree that that is an issue, which is precisely why we have set up the Matthew Taylor review. It is investigating precisely the new types of employment structures that have been set up in recent years and making sure that employment laws keep up with new types of employment.