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Self-employed People

Volume 637: debated on Tuesday 13 March 2018

We want people to be self-employed when it is the right thing for them, which is why the Government have introduced new measures to ensure they are even better supported. These include improved support for embarking on self-employed careers, encouraging pension saving and supporting people to pay the right tax. From 6 April 2016, we have also given self-employed people the ability to build their entitlement to the new state pension at the same rate as employed people.

Morley is lucky to have a thriving high street, which matters to me as an ex-retailer. During the recent cold weather, Apollo Fisheries in Morley handed out free food to cold residents. What are the Government doing to support our businesses on the high street, and will the Minister take this opportunity to congratulate Apollo Fisheries on its fine example of Yorkshire hospitality at its best?

I think the House will recognise that I am no stranger to a fish supper, and I would like to join my hon. Friend in congratulating Apollo Fisheries on the community spirit it showed. It clearly demonstrates that businesses contribute not just to the economy but to our society. The future high streets forum provides joint business and Government leadership to enable our high streets and town centres to adapt and compete in the face of changing consumer and social trends, but we want to go further, so last week I announced the establishment of the Retail Sector Council, which will bring together leaders in retail to help to develop policies and support for the vital retail sector.

We all want self-employment to grow, but we also want to crack down on apparent self-employment, where people are forced to become self-employed by exploitative employers who then save on national insurance contributions while putting all the risk of that employment on often vulnerable individuals. What are the Government doing about that?

I am sure the hon. Lady will be delighted to know that the Government are taking forward the proposals set out by Matthew Taylor. We recognise that employment status—whether workers are employed or self-employed—is key to their getting not only the payments but the protections they deserve. That is why we have embarked on a full consultation with the intention of clarifying the status of workers, giving them extra protections and ensuring that if it looks like work and feels like work, it is work and they are paid properly.

The Government’s response to the Taylor review did virtually nothing to tackle the challenges and insecurity that self-employed people face. Equally poor was the Government’s response to the treatment of gig workers.

“Don has died and they should be making changes”.

Those were the words of DPD gig worker Don Lane’s widow, Ruth. With this in mind and with Matthew Taylor himself last week rating the Government’s response to the Taylor review a shocking four out of 10, what score would the Minister give himself?

Seven weeks in, I think I would give myself 10 out of 10. The hon. Lady quotes Matthew Taylor. He has said quite clearly that this is a complex and complicated matter. He wants us to get the definition of status right, because the rights of thousands of gig workers depend on it. That is why in the passage the hon. lady quotes he also said that when we have finished our consultation, if we deliver what we have promised he would give us seven or eight. I want to go further; I want it to be 10.

Ten out of 10 indeed! The Chancellor today might attempt to laud employment figures as positive news, but he will fail to state that over 3 million people are in insecure work, and, according to a recent report by the Centre for Labour and Social Studies, over a third of all workers do not even earn enough to live. There are also real fears, despite the Prime Minister’s assurances, that the quality of work will worsen still, with reports that the Foreign Secretary and other Ministers are pushing for major employment law deregulation. Will the Minister confirm whether his Department is carrying out any work looking at the deregulation of certain employment rights?

The hon. Lady must have missed the intention behind what the Government were doing with the Matthew Taylor report. Not only are we committed to continuing the existing employment rights and protections, but we are going further and faster than anyone else—further and faster than our European colleagues—to give gig workers and others in vulnerable conditions, such as agency workers, greater protections than ever before. We are not just talking about it; we are protecting those workers.