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Support into Self-employment

Volume 673: debated on Monday 9 March 2020

9. What steps her Department is taking to support people into self-employment; and if she will make a statement. (901389)

Supporting people into self-employment and backing them to grow their businesses is a priority for me, as the employment Minister. Since 2011, the new enterprise allowance has resulted in nearly 131,000 new businesses. We expanded this provision in 2017 to include universal credit claimants with existing businesses and provide them with specialist support to boost their earnings.

That is very encouraging news indeed. As my hon. Friend will know, it was Adam Smith, not Napoleon Bonaparte, who said that Britain is a nation of shopkeepers. That is especially so in the west midlands, in that people have small businesses that expand into large businesses. When will she meet the Mayor of the West Midlands, Andy Street, to discuss how we can stimulate the economy there still further?

I thank my hon. Friend for raising that. In fact, later today in the Chamber the west midlands will be standing proud as we see the debate on the Birmingham Commonwealth Games Bill. The legacy around jobs and skills from that will be very welcome indeed. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State will be meeting Andy Street this Thursday; I am sure that everyone will be delighted about that. I recently held a roundtable to redesign how we look at self-employment going forward, listening to people across the country talk about how they can build, create and boost their businesses.

I am very interested to hear about the Minister’s roundtable, because one of the great barriers to people in self-employment, particularly women in freelance-type occupations, is the fact that, unlike employed people, they cannot share their parental leave with their partner. Will she, as part of her roundtable discussions, and discussions with other Ministers, ensure that the Government change the system so that self-employed freelancers can share parental leave?

Women were 41% of those taking up the new enterprise allowance recently, moving from table-top to large businesses. That is brilliant news and it is very encouraging. The hon. Gentleman will be delighted to hear that I was in north Wales to see about pop-up businesses, with many women involved in trying to move from ideas into successful businesses. We are redesigning this at the moment. I would be very happy to meet and hear from him.

15. Freelance IT contractors in my constituency are already losing contracts because of the complexities and legal risks around IR35. Now that they face periods of self-isolation, possibly for days or weeks on end, the Government urgently need to clarify their entitlement to support from the welfare system, and also generally to outline what the Government are going to do to get them through this difficult period. (901395)

I thank my right hon. Friend for raising this issue. I know that other Members across the Chamber will have met constituents around this issue, as indeed I did on Friday. There are over 5 million people who are self-employed at the moment, with a huge amount of people coming into this area, which we are trying to boost, as I mentioned earlier. I am sure that as we go into the Budget, the new Chancellor will be listening to her very carefully.