The Association of Independent Professionals and the Self-Employed (IPSE) and the Institute for Economic Affairs (IEA) had recently organised a discussion entitled “Is the Conservative Party Still Standing Up for the Self-Employed?”at the Conservative Party Conference.

During the panel discussion, the MP Alok Sharma who is the current Minister for Employment had been criticised for failing to protect the rights of one of the critical backbone of the economies: the freelancer and self-employed individuals.

Mr. Sharma who is a former business had replied to the criticisms highlighting the Government’s successful efforts in reducing corporate taxes that have made UK one of the best places in the world to start a new company. But he had acknowledged that there was a need for a ‘culture change’ in order to address the problem of late payments for small businesses.

Meanwhile, the Business Secretary Greg Clark MP had announced at the Conference that new measures will be taken to address taxation problems. The measures include appointing a non-executive director who will be in charge of overseeing timely tax payment, promoting new technologies for tax filing, and highlighting best and worst practices by trade associations.

Government’s Commitments Criticised

A number of panellists were doubtful of the commitment by the Government’s MP to small businesses that employ many of the country’s contracting and freelancing professionals. According to the MP Lee Rowley, there was a disconnect between the business and Conservatives. In addition, the former IT contractor and winner of The Apprentice Michelle Dewberry had stated there was an anti-business narrative within the party.

Ms. Dewberry speaking about the gig economy had stated that this was a ‘lazy’ term used for many different types of work including high-end contract work and unskilled, precariously-engaged couriers. She had described her experience as an IT contracting professionals as ‘the bane of my life’.

The Policy Director at IPSE, Simon McVicker had emphasised on the increasing unease among contracting and freelancing professionals. There is an apprehension among them about the next tax grab. He highlighted the outrageous IR35 reform and urged the Government to return to its roots of supporting the self-employed individuals in the UK.

Mr. Rowley had acknowledged that the Government has to ‘tread very carefully’ and avoid over-regulating the segment. There are many young people associated with this line of work that provides greater flexibility regarding work lives. He had stated that there is a need for restructuring of the wider tax system to bring more clarity and avoid confusion.