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Davey challenges govt to roll out support package for self-employed

March 24, 2020 7:56 PM
By Rugby Lib Dems

LD demand betterToday Ed Davey, Acting Leader of the Liberal Democrats, challenged the Chancellor to "move as fast as possible" to roll out a financial support package for the five million self-employed people in the UK.

In an Urgent Question in the House of Commons, Davey highlighted that the self-employed, who are excluded from current financial support for businesses and employees, are under "real stress" and are "literally running out of money" as a result of the coronavirus crisis.

Following his Urgent Question to the Chancellor, Ed Davey said:

"As the days tick on, millions of self-employed - from cleaners to hairdressers from taxi drivers to builders - face mounting worries about their future. Ministers must move far faster to provide help, as they did for businesses and employees.

"Most of the self-employed have very modest incomes and aren't well off. Without help, they won't be able to pay their mortgages, rent and bills, facing ruin."

"Every day of delay increases the strain these millions of individuals are under. That is why - this afternoon - I challenged the Chancellor to explain how he will support self-employed people through this crisis. So far we are just being told by Ministers to wait a little longer.

"Without action, those who are self-employed may be forced to ignore government guidance to stay home and plough on with their work, or face real hardship.

"Last week Liberal Democrats welcomed the Chancellor's financial package for businesses and for employees, but this will remain incomplete and inadequate until we see proper measures for the five million self employed people across the country."

Notes to editors:

Please see below for a transcript of Ed Davey's Urgent Question to the Chancellor of the Exchequer on the subject of government support for the self-employed.

Ed Davey:

Can I thank the Chief Secretary to the Treasury for that answer.

He knows that parties on all sides of the house have been supportive of the
way the Chancellor and the Treasury have given support to businesses
and to employees, but I have to tell him for the five million self-employed
people across the country, who are in all our constituencies, they are in
real stress.

They are deeply worried and while we all understand there are
complications, the government has to move as fast as possible to meet
their concerns, because they are literally, in many cases, simply running
out of money.

I want to say this to the treasury bench: It's important we remember who the self-employed are. 80 per cent of the five million self-employed are sole traders. They are our neighbours, our friends, our family. The vast majority are not wealthy people; they are cleaners, they are taxi drivers, they are plumbers, they are hairdressers, they are musicians, tutors and journalists they are builders and electricians, they are childminders.

These are people who are literally running out of money now, and we have to support them. Of course there will be those stories of people who are wealthy who are self-employed of, but they are the minority, and if you look at the figures - HMRC's own data - 36 per cent of sole traders (the majority of the self-employed) have taxable incomes of less than £10,000 a year, and that compares with just 15 per cent of employees on incomes that low. So we are talking about people on low incomes. 60 per cent have profits of less than £10,000 a year so these are people who were struggling before the coronavirus pandemic and are now facing ruin.

Mr Speaker, I think that an urgent package of help is needed now, and it needs to be at least the equivalent to that that has been offered to employees.

While we all know the problems that the treasury are facing getting this, can I say to him: if the package is capped in the way it was for the employees, if it is temporary as it was in the case for the employees and if, especially for the self employed, there is some sort of clawback mechanism if people are being given money that they didn't need, then surely we can come together as a house, as a country, to make sure that these people get the support that they need?

It is not uncommon for the self-employed - when they do their annual self-assessment tax return - to have to pay money back to the Treasury. Surely if money is given now so they can deal with the cashflow, capped in a temporary scheme, then that can be clawed back next time they do their self-assessment if it turns out that they didn't need it?

So I honestly urge the Treasury, Mr Speaker, to move fast and not to allow the perfect to be the enemy of the good. People need the money now please, please act now.