Tory MP to quiz DWP over workers excluded from covid cash lifelines

A Tory MP critical of both the Loan Charge and IR35 reform will today broach the lack of covid-19 income support for contractors and other workers in the House of Commons.  

Former Brexit Secretary David Davis will ask a question of the Work and Pensions department, having approached a group that represents the excluded workers, Forgotten Ltd.

A poll designed to help the MP frame his question, posted online on Friday, reveals that almost 70% of such workers have received no government support since the pandemic began.

'Sobering'

And asked in the poll about Universal Credit – as distinct to any coronavirus-related financial support, a massive 90% of the respondents said they have gone without receiving the benefit.

Speaking on Sunday before it took the poll down so it could hand the answers to Mr Davis ahead of his Commons question today, Forgotten Ltd described the results as “sobering.”

“[Prime minister Boris] Johnson made a sustained argument [recently] about why the private sector will need to lead the economic recovery,” the group said before the poll.

“We… fully agree, and so repeat our request to meet with Mr Sunak to discuss the Rescue Package we have tabled -- a practical proposal aimed at avoiding an entirely unnecessary tsunami of business closures and job losses within the very sector he identified as the ‘economic cavalry’.”

'In the firing line'

On his social media channels, Mr Davis sounds similarly minded. “The Conservative Party must not forget its core principles,” he tweeted.

“We must support the small businesses and entrepreneurs who will drive the UK's post-coronavirus recovery.”

But whether they are freelancers, contractors or sole traders, “in recent years independent workers have been in the firing line”, according to Seb Maley, chief executive of Qdos.

'Tories no longer seen as the party of business'

Reflecting on reports that the government would have faced a “huge rebellion” from its own backbench MPs if Autumn Budget 2020 had not been cancelled but instead used it to hike taxes on atypical workers, Mr Maley added:

“After changes to dividend taxation, IR35 reform in the public sector and, in just a couple of months, private sector changes too, many of the contractors I’ve spoken to no longer see the Conservative Party as the ‘party of small business.’”

Earlier this month, the Association of Independent Professionals and the Self-Employed said it was “dismaying” that contractors were given nothing new from a new covid-support package, which included the Job Support Scheme.

'Fall through the cracks'

Ahead of a law firm’s exclusive analysis for readers of ContractorUK on how the government’s now in-force, ‘tiered’ covid restrictions affect independent workers, IPSE said:

“Government must not leave the self-employed to fall through the cracks of the ever-growing patchwork of local lockdowns across the UK.

“It must extend the amount and the parameters of the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme to offer targeted support for the self-employed that matches these new measures.”

'Hypocrisy and deception'

A frustrated-sounding Caroline Lucas MP has been imploring Mr Johnson to do much the same, or at least stop making out he already has.

“Will he stop saying that he has ‘put his arms around the self-employed’ because over three million of them have had no support since March,” the Green MP told the PM directly, looking exasperated.

She tweeted: “[I] feel so angry on behalf of the excluded [workers] Forgotten 'Ltd' [workers] and forgotten PAYE [workers].

“The hypocrisy and deception in the warm words of ‘putting arms around everyone’ are sickening. We won’t give up -- there are huge numbers on your side and we’ll continue to fight for justice for [the] self-employed.”

Responding to the Brighton MP correcting him in the Commons, Mr Johnson said: “I repeat the point I made about the self-employed. Thirteen-and-a-half billion has been given to support them [during the pandemic]. And where’s there's more we can do, we will obviously look at it.”

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Written by Simon Moore

Simon writes impartial news and engaging features for the contractor industry, covering, IR35, the loan charge and general tax and legislation.
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