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23 March 2020

Cross-party MPs urge the Chancellor to provide more support for the self-employed

Nineteen MPs have signed an open letter to Rishi Sunak calling for the self-employed to receive the same level of income protection as salaried workers. 

By Stephen Bush

Nineteen MPs from Labour, the SNP, the Liberal Democrats, Plaid Cymru and the sole Green MP Caroline Lucas have written an open letter to the Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, calling for action to support the five million self-employed people living in the United Kingdom.

The letter is the work of the Liberal Democrats, whose acting leader Ed Davey said that the United Kingdom’s self-employed people “have been in limbo for too long”, but has attracted support from across the opposition benches, with Labour’s David Lammy, Plaid Cymru’s Westminster leader Liz Saville Roberts and the SNP health spokesperson Phillipa Whitford among the signatories.

Dear Chancellor,

We want to repeat our strong belief that the Government must urgently take action to assist the 5 million self-employed people in the UK who are being hit by the Coronavirus epidemic.

Many of our self-employed constituents are desperately worried about making their rent, mortgage and other bill payments. As part of the collective national effort to protect the vulnerable from the economic impact of COVID-19 crisis, we, as their representatives in Parliament, are asking that the self-employed be extended comparable protection as to those being offered to employees. The self-employed already lack all the legal protections of redundancy and other rights that exist to help employees, from a sudden lack of income: it would be wrong if they were excluded from significant help now.

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Of course, the self-employed suffering from a sudden loss of income should apply for universal credit: it is welcome there are some improvements being made to that system. Yet it is clear more needs to be done. Other countries are doing much more: in Norway, for example, the self-employed and freelancers are to receive temporary income protection equivalent to 80 per cent of their average pay over the past three years.

We recognise that any assistance provided may end up giving support for some self-employed people who have not seen any serious reduction in their income. However, a scheme that is capped and is temporary will minimise this. Moreover, it would be reasonable to include a clear message that any sole trader or incorporated self-employed person who ended up earning levels of income during this period that meant they didn’t need any grant awarded, could end up having some or all of that grant clawed back through a future self-assessment process.

The most important principles to establish urgently however is that the Government will provide support for the self-employed and that this support will be comparable to that provided to the employed.

We look forward to an early positive response.

Yours,

Sir Ed Davey MP

Daisy Cooper MP

Sarah Olney MP

Layla Moran MP

Christine Jardine MP

Munira Wilson MP

Wendy Chamberlain MP

Alistair Carmichael MP

Caroline Lucas MP

Phillipa Whitford MP

Liz Saville Roberts Mp

David Lammy MP

Martyn Day MP

Rosie Duffield MP

Ben Lake MP

Chris Elmore MP

Rupa Huq MP

Alexandra Davies Jones MP

Carolyn Harris MP

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