Hove Labour MP Peter Kyle has challenged Business Secretary Sajid Javid over the omission of self-employed people in the government’s Productivity Plan.
Mr Kyle said that there wasn’t a single reference to self-employment in the plan even though there were 4.5 million self-employed people in Britain.
He said that this was a significant group in the economy nationally and in Brighton and Hove.
The exchange took place when the Business, Innovation and Skills Select Committee last Wednesday (14 October).
Mr Kyle said: “I am going to invite you to share your views with us about the role and importance that self‑employed people have in our economy, both our economy as a whole but also the fabric of our commercial landscape.”
The Business Secretary said: “We have seen a big rise in the number of self‑employed people and self‑employed businesses.
“I grew up in a family where my parents were self‑employed. With that experience, I can say I know both the good side of that, in terms of being your own boss and running your own business, but also the challenging bits, in terms of how the family mood can change with the day’s takings.
“I am and always have been a big supporter of that, and I would like to make it even easier – I think we have done this to some extent in the coalition government but there is more to do – for people to start own businesses and to take on people as they grow.
“That is one reason we, jointly with DWP (department for Work and Pensions), have launched a review of self‑employment for more disadvantaged groups and others, to see what more we can do to help people start their own businesses.”
Mr Kyle said: “It is very clear that, both personally and as a policymaker, you value the role that self‑employed people play in the economy.
“4.5 million people are self‑employed. Fifteen per cent of our workforce is self‑employed. Are you not therefore embarrassed that the Productivity Plan does not make one single reference to self‑employment?”
Mr Javid said: “There are two major parts to the long‑term challenge of productivity.
“One, as it talks about, is long‑term investment in things like infrastructure. Then it talks about dynamic economy. The self‑employment bit is really part of what I think is a dynamic economy.
“It is the most detailed Productivity Plan that any British government has ever published and therefore it goes into quite a bit of information about the kind of thing.”
Mr Kyle said: “If it is the most detailed plan that has ever been published and one of our expert witnesses yesterday said it was a ‘worthy list’, why not therefore mention the fact there are 4.5 million self‑employed people who have specific productivity challenges?”
Mr Javid said: “It is captured in the parts of the plan – I apologise, I do not have it with me now – that talk about building a competitive economy and promoting enterprise and therefore one of the objectives being an increase in not just productivity but employment.”