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Volume 205: debated on Tuesday 10 March 1992

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To ask the Secretary of State for Employment what has been the rate of growth of self-employment from 1979 to the present time among (a) men and (b) women.

The number of male and female self-employed in the United Kingdom grew by 55 and 109 per cent. respectively between 1979 and 1991.

Is my hon. Friend aware that Britain now has more than 3 million self-employed people, of whom 750,000 are women, many of them in south Derbyshire? Does he share their view that they work hard for their money, that they pay quite enough tax and national insurance and that they do not want to see what would be the worst disaster for such businesses in futureā€”an increase in income tax and national insurance, as proposed by the Labour party?

My hon. Friend makes an important point. We are entitled to take great pride in the fact that so many more women have now chosen self-employment to promote their standard of living and that of their families. It is also true to say that if the Opposition parties were ever in a position to put their policies into effect, that self-employment record would inevitably be gravely harmed and the cause of women in particular would suffer much more.

The Minister knows that many self-employed are concentrated in the construction industry. Does he know that thousands of construction workers in Wales are out of work, yet Shelter Cymru tells us that 63,000 families in the Principality have experienced homelessness in the past year? Why cannot this incompetent Government get their act together and put those building workers to build houses for those families?

That must be a matter for the local authorities. I am often at a loss to understand the sense of priorities or the lack of priority among Labour-controlled local authorities in particular. They seem determined to spend their community charge payers' money on the most irrelevant and frivolous projects rather than concentrating on the real problems that the hon. Gentleman described.