HC Deb 16 May 1989 vol 153 c161
13. Mr. Rowe

To ask the Secretary of State for Employment if he will make a statement on the number of people currently self-employed in the south-east.

Mr. Cope

In December 1988 there were 1,080,000 self-employed people in the south-east, including London, an increase of 112,000 over the previous two years.

Mr. Rowe

Does my right hon. Friend agree that that is a remarkable and welcome achievement? Does he also agree that self-employment constitutes one of the very best opportunities for women to establish businesses of their own, that they are taking advantage of that in large numbers, and that even Opposition Members might welcome self-employment as a means of expressing in practical terms equal opportunities for women?

Mr. Cope

Yes. The number of self-employed women has gone up by about 113 per cent. since 1979.

Mr. Cryer

Could the Minister explain the basis of this estimated number of self-employed in the south-east? Could he also tell us how many self-employed businesses have gone into liquidation—have gone bust—as a result of the Government's high interest policies which are bearing down on the very small businesses that the Government are supposed to encourage?

Mr. Cope

The hon. Gentleman knows that interest rates are very important in the control of inflation. I cannot give him a specific figure, because it is difficult to sort out the reasons why individual companies do not succeed. But there is a high success rate among self-employed people and among small businesses generally.