HC Deb 24 July 1990 vol 177 cc286-7
9. Mr. Boswell

To ask the Secretary of State for Employment what was the increase in the numbers of people self-employed during 1989.

Mr. Forth

Between December 1988 and December 1989, the number of self-employed people in the United Kingdom rose by nearly 200,000 to reach 3.3 million.

Mr. Boswell

I thank my hon. Friend for that reply and congratulate him on his translation. Can he confirm that that was the 10th successive year of increase in self-employment and that the figures are now some three quarters higher than when the Government took office? Will he take it from me, from personal experience, that it is a satisfactory way of employing oneself and serving the customers?

Mr. Forth

Indeed. My hon. Friend has made the point better than I could. We know that the main hope for future wealth creation and growth in employment is precisely the growth of the self-employed sector. The Government have demonstrated that we welcome and encourage self-employment. Our track record is excellent and we intend to maintain it.

Ms. Short

I do not suppose that the Minister has had time yet, but if he looks at the figures for the incomes of self-employed people, he will find that large numbers of them are on very low incomes. Given the stress that his Government place on self-employment, will he consider securing better standards of protection against unemployment, sickness and low income levels for the self-employed, most of whom are extremely low-paid workers?

Mr. Forth

The answer must be no, because the great strength of the self-employed sector is precisely that most self-employed people do not want intervention, interference, or the pseudo-protection that the hon. Lady suggests. Self-employed people are vigorous, self-maintained people; they want to get on with wealth creation and job creation unencumbered by the measures for which the hon. Lady asks.

Mr. Butler

Does my hon. Friend agree that the number of self-employed people would be much higher had the Inland Revenue not engaged in a campaign classifying entire groups of people from the self-employed to the employed?

Mr. Forth

On my first day in the job, I welcome the advice that my hon. Friend has given. He has given me a broad hint as to the direction that I might take better to discharge my responsibilities and I am most grateful to him.