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Self-Employed Persons

Volume 888: debated on Thursday 13 March 1975

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asked the Prime Minister whether he has held a meeting with representatives of the self-employed.

No, Sir, but the various organi- sations which represent the self-employed are in regular touch with departmental Ministers.

Is the Prime Minister aware of the grave concern felt by the 2 million or so self-employed who feel themselves to be at the mercy of the big battalions and who appear to have been left out of account when the social contract was drawn up? Does the right hon. Gentleman accept that they are useful people, deserving a fair deal? Will he explain to them what benefit they will obtain from the social contract?

I accept that, and that is why, although we have had the report of the Bolton Committee on Small Firms, which is what many of the self-employed are, in effect, we are looking further at the question of what help can be given to small firms in their work. The hon. Gentleman will be aware that these matters have been fully debated during the passage of legislation, including social security legislation and the Finance Bill. The House took its decisions. I understand that these matters will be raised further by the Opposition later today, when my right hon. Friends will he answering the points made.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that when the Leader of the Opposition addressed the National Chamber of Trade on 17th February she expressed sympathy for the self-employed, but said nothing about the burden of value added tax and social security payments placed on them by the administration of which she was a member? Will my right hon. Friend comment on the suggestion made then, that we must keep a stern eye on public expenditure, in view of the right hon. Lady's bribery at the election?

There is no ministerial responsibility for what the right hon. Lady said. The only question of responsibility is how far she is continually divorcing herself from the actions which she supported in government.