Last Thursday in Parliament Caroline Lucas organised a debate called “Support for Self-employed and Freelance Workers”. It was very encouraging that two other Sussex MPs from each of the two Sussex County areas participated in the debate. Although three people out of 16 is not a large proportion, given the small number of MPs that can join debates in Parliament it was very encouraging. Because Sally-Ann Hart and Peter Bottomley are members of the largest party and as Peter is the Father of the House one can only hope that their Sussex colleagues will support these contributions and will try to get some movement from the Government. What is vital is that these calls are all responded to in an effective manner. The comment by Peter was relevant for his constituency and throughout Sussex “many involved in large industries such as culture, entertainment, film and music have not been able to [get back to work] because those events are not taking place.” This theme was also referred to by Sally-Ann and also Caroline and it is clearly very important to the industry I am part of. I know a number of self-employed people in Sussex including a neighbour who have been severely impacted by this. Another significant element that was raised by Sally-Ann was how some small businesses which have employees and are therefore not within the title of the debate, do need to also be included on this case. She stated
We must not forget the small business owners who pay themselves mostly in dividends and earn under the threshold. It is often a more flexible way of payment that can keep money in their businesses to keep them going
Although she went on to talk about people who use that structure to mitigate their tax payments, we need to focus on people such as those I know who use that process to receive very modest incomes, in some cases receiving far less than their own staff. It is clear that these people unlike the tax reduction folk also need to be supported by the Government. Sally-Ann also made this very important statement
Our SMEs provide the backbone of our great nation. The Government rightly took the bold and necessary decisions to provide an exceptional package of financial support to businesses up and down our land, but now the Government must go further and consider the support given to our freelancers and self-employed as we turbo-charge our economy out of the pandemic.
Clearly the turbo-charge reference is nonsense but I agree with the rest of that comment. Having referred to the comments by two other Sussex MPs it is vital to focus on some of what Caroline expressed on our behalf. Her opening statement began with these words
Today’s debate takes place just as the six-month period that the self-employment scheme was intended to cover draws to a close. I intend to make the case that the scheme should be continued where it is needed and, crucially, that it should be extended and backdated for all those people who have been unfairly left without support over the last six months through absolutely no fault of their own, and who have endured intense hardship as a result. Many cannot pay their bills. They are losing their homes, they are drowning in debt and they need our support.
Along with this vital starting point Caroline went on to also list some of the people who are impacted by this issue and then a few sentences later she stated
I am not sure whether the Chancellor just does not understand his own scheme or whether he was deliberately being economical with the truth, but when he asserted that the only group of people excluded from the self-employment scheme is those earning more than £50,000, and that their average median salary is apparently £200,000, I did not know whether to laugh or cry. He is completely and utterly wrong. He does not understand his own policy, and we urge him again to meet us so that we can set out the problem.
It does seem vital that as I have called in the past for Sussex MPs to work together to resolve matters that have not yet been fixed by the Government. There is a clear need for these MPs and the people who have been part of the campaigns that along with Caroline took petitions to the Treasury back in July and are still waiting for the Chancellor to engage with them. The Minister, Kemi Badenoch who took part in the debate promised to write to some people but did not agree to meet with the people who are being impacted. It is clear as Caroline stated at the end of the debate that this must change and it must change now!