HC Deb 17 February 1976 vol 905 cc1124-5
Q2. Mr. Paul Dean

asked the Prime Minister when he next plans to meet representatives of the self-employed and the small independent businesses.

The Prime Minister

I have at present no plans to do so, Sir.

Mr. Dean

Does the Prime Minister recall that the House passed a Resolution on 30th January calling for action to alleviate the burdens which threaten the existence of the self-employed and the small business? Will the right hon. Gentleman consider a meeting with representatives of the self-employed and small businesses to show that he takes seriously the Resolutions of the House, to give him an opportunity to appreciate the importance of this section of the community to the nation and to hear first hand from it?

The Prime Minister

It was a good Resolution and the House accepted it, with our support. The hon. Gentleman will be glad to know that my hon. Friend the Minister of State, Department of Industry, met representatives of the CBI Small Firms Council earlier today, and that representatives of the self-employed have been meeting Treasury and Department of Health and Social Security Ministers on taxation and social security matters. My hon. Friend the Financial Secretary is looking at a package deal put forward for the simplification of the VAT scheme. There are other comments that I could make if there were time, but I recognise that Mr. Speaker would not wish me to make them.

Mr. Michael McGuire

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the small businessmen and the self-employed in Skelmersdale New Town have suffered as a result of the tremendous loss of jobs there and that the prosperity of those people cannot be divorced from the general prosperity of the community? What steps are the Government taking to remedy the terrifying unemployment position in Skelmersdale New Town?

The Prime Minister

I recognise the facts put forward by my hon. Friend, but his supplementary question goes much wider than the original Question.

Mr. Thorpe

Does the right hon. Gentleman recollect that on 4th November his hon. Friend the Minister of State, Department of Health and Social Security, said that the Government were examining the possibility of earnings-related national insurance contributions and benefits, to which the self-employed attach great importance? How is that examination proceeding? When it is concluded, may we assume that the self-employed will be told at once?

The Prime Minister

My right hon. Friend is pursuing inquiries into a possible system of earnings-related national insurance contributions and benefits for the self-employed, and she will present her conclusions to the House as soon as possible.