Sorry I’ve not posted more in the last fortnight, it’s been an incredibly busy time for me and I’ve struggled to make time to sit in front of my computer and write!
But I do want to say a few words about self-employment. I was horrified when Philip Hammond announced the rise in National Insurance. I was sitting in the chamber, it was very noisy and I thought I must have heard him wrong. But I did’t.
I’m obviously pleased that he’s climbed down now but I remain disturbed that it could have got to the point of announcement in the first place. Why?
Well the chancellor said he was doing it to ‘level the unfairness between self-employed and employed’, and this is what made me angry. Because the unfairness cuts both ways. The self-employed don’t get a minimum wage, statutory holiday allowance, maternity rights (yet), or workplace protection. On average they will have periods of the year where they earn less than the minimum wage, they will take less holiday than employed people, and they save less for their pensions.
So Philip Hammond wanted to level one unfairness, in taxation, but not the other one, in rights. When Labour was in power we had a guiding principal for governing: ‘rights and responsibility’. It meant that policies had to be balanced between what was given away with what was expected in return. With Philip Hammond it was all responsibility but no rights.
In our community in Brighton and Hove 1 in 5 people are self employed. This attack against them would have had a terrible impact on them and our economy, after all it’s this part of the economy where the risk is and where most wealth and job creation comes from.
A while ago I was meeting residents in Mile Oak and met an amazing person who was a self-employed builder. He had a wife and young family and I will never forget something that he told me. He worked huge hours and loved his job, but all of his contracts were short term. As a result he’d never taken a whole week off work in case he lost business. So each year his wife and child went away on holiday for a week and he joined them for the second half.
I can remember the exact street and house where this family live because this conversation left such a big impression on me. It was this man who leapt into my mind when I heard Philip Hammond say that he was being treated too well by the tax system.
I’ve been self-employed myself and I know many of you are too. So rest assured, I will keep on fighting so that you get more rights as we move towards an economy with even more people who are self employed. The time will come where perhaps you will need to pay more tax, but for me that can only be considered *after* the balence between rights and responsibilities has been resolved and not before.
Finally, I want to ask what this means for how government is operating at this time. I have said for six months now that I do not believe that government is technically ready for the Brexit negotiations and this shambles of a budget yet again sets alarm bells ringing. How could such a stupid mistake be made? And what happens if this idiocy takes place in the negotiations? I’m glad it’s not just me who’s noticed this, I’m sharing the front page of the FT which is also raising these questions.
If you’re self employed please let me know how you’re doing and any thoughts you’ve had over the last week. All the best, Peter.