Amendment of the Law

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 2:46 pm on 8th March 2017.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Rachel Reeves Rachel Reeves Labour, Leeds West 2:46 pm, 8th March 2017

The hon. and learned Lady will also know that the manifesto promise the Conservative party was elected on has been delayed time and again. If she really thinks that the support that will, we hope, come forward in September will be enough to help women get back to work and to deliver the high-quality childcare we need for all children, I am afraid she is deluded.

Cutting inheritance tax is unfair and misguided, and this blatantly unfair policy is further evidence of the Government’s warped sense of priorities at a time when we should be doing far more to help the millions of families struggling with childcare costs. Just one in 2,500 people in England and Wales will benefit from this cut, which will lift 26,000 of the richest families out of inheritance tax. This measure will only deepen the north-south divide, and it is another Tory policy benefiting the already well-off, when we could be investing in the future of all our people.

Secondly, I would like to turn to the issue of the self-employed. Today, the Chancellor made changes to national insurance contributions for the self-employed. I am all in favour of cracking down on bogus self-employment, especially when employers effectively force employees to become self-employed and to lose out on the security and benefits that go with being employed. I am also all in favour of cracking down on tax avoidance as a result of individuals incorporating rather than being direct employees.

However, I am worried about these changes. My back-of-the-envelope calculations suggest that a self-employed person on £20,000 a year will end up paying £20 extra a month because of these changes in national insurance. We also know from the Budget documents and from previous announcements in Budgets that the cuts to corporation tax are worth £3.8 billion and will primarily benefit the largest businesses, yet in this Budget, we are increasing taxes on the self-employed by £2 billion. That seems to be the wrong priority: we should be doing more to help the self-employed and small businesses, and less to help the big businesses already making large profits. In the Budget documents, the Chancellor also speaks about tax avoidance, but the tax avoidance measures amount to £810 million. Again, we have this huge discrepancy: we are taking £810 million from tax avoidance, but asking the self-employed to pay an extra £2 billion.

While it is right for the Chancellor to say that we should look at access to maternity and paternity benefits for the self-employed, what about the other benefits that people take for granted if they are direct employees, such as sickness benefits, out-of-work benefits and access to universal credit? Will the Chancellor look at access to those for the self-employed, as well as ensuring that the self-employed can get a mortgage and a private pension—things that too many self-employed people find are denied to them?