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Covid-19: Support for the Self-Employed

Volume 690: debated on Tuesday 9 March 2021

What assessment he has made of the potential merits of continuing support for the self-employed as covid-19 public health restrictions are lifted; and if he will make a statement. (913171)

What assessment he has made of the potential merits of continuing support for the self-employed as covid-19 public health restrictions are lifted; and if he will make a statement. (913185)

The Government have announced that the self-employment income support scheme will continue until September, with a fourth and a fifth grant. This provides certainty to business as the economy reopens and it means that the self-employment income support scheme continues to be one of the most generous covid-19 support schemes for self-employment income around the world.

That is welcome for those who qualify for it, but a year ago it was the Chancellor who said that he would do “whatever it takes” to protect people. There are still millions of self-employed people without any support since this crisis started and they will not forget that either. It is untenable. Why will Ministers not finally act and do whatever it takes to ensure that this important sector of the economy also has the chance to succeed post the pandemic?

I thank the hon. Gentleman for his question. Of course, we have put in place £407 billion-worth of support across the whole of the pandemic, which is an astonishing level of support for a very wide range of businesses and people across the country. In relation to the self-employed, he may not be aware, but I have bent over backwards to engage with different groups of the self-employed. Repeatedly, across different meetings, we have looked with the greatest care at the proposals that they have put forward to bring in people who may not be able to qualify at the moment. As the Chancellor mentioned, 600,000 people previously ineligible may now be eligible, including those newly self-employed in 2019-20.

The Government may well throw these figures about, but we know that 3.8 million self-employed people have had no financial support throughout this whole pandemic. Freelancers, small companies and other people across Bolton and this country want the Chancellor to recognise the fact that his continued silence is just not good enough.

In mentioning Bolton, the hon. Lady somehow neglected to mention the £22.9 million-worth of towns funding that Bolton has recently received. I thought that she might kick off with that. The answer that I gave was perfectly clear about the matter: we are bending over backwards to support people. We have leant into this issue as hard as we can and we will continue to do so.