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Covid-19: Support for the Self-employed - Statement

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 2:54 pm on 24th March 2020.

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Photo of Baroness Thornhill Baroness Thornhill Liberal Democrat 2:54 pm, 24th March 2020

My Lords, I am sure we can all imagine the households up and down the country of the 5 million self-employed and freelance workers as they watched the Prime Minister’s statement and the penny dropped. You can imagine the scene: a builder talking to his wife, a freelance speech therapist in a school, and saying an expletive beginning with “S” and then, “This means we’ll have no money coming in for the foreseeable future.” That is what we need to consider. These people will have no access to funds.

Can the Government confirm that the support package mentioned by the noble Earl—much of what he said was about business in general, not the self-employed in particular—will be equal in generosity to that already provided to business and employees? Likewise, will the Government agree to the self-employed having the same access to zero-interest loans as other people for the next 12 months? They are not second-class workers. Perhaps more radically, will they consider a form of statutory self-employment pay, as the noble Lord mentioned, based on previous tax returns? That would seem the ideal safety net for those who will need it during the course of this pandemic.