Tory MP vows to 'champion' freelancers

A vocal critic of IR35 who once owned a freelance marketing company has been appointed shadow small business and enterprise minister by David Cameron, the new Tory leader.

Mark Prisk, MP for Hertford and Stortford, is a qualified chartered surveyor who for 10 years ran a marketing consultancy for property professionals.

The former freelance joins the shadow cabinet under a firm pledge to “free enterprise” from the government’s continued “meddling”, in order to support today’s freelance professional.

Speaking to the Daily Telegraph, Mr Prisk said he plans to start his role by listening to the concerns of micro business, rather than talking first.

“It’s time for someone to champion not only small businesses but also sole traders, freelancers and family businesses. Politicians have a tendency to talk before they have listened,” he said.

Since 2001, Mr Prisk has been credited with leading the Conservative Party’s campaign against IR35, dubbed the 'freelancers' tax,' while supporting the role of family-run firms.

His record in opposition also reveals a dislike of excessive bureaucracy, a careful eye on the tax take of the Treasury, and a desire to make business better for small company owners and freelance workers.

“The Conservatives are listening to freelancers - including freelance journalists, actors and writers to find out the problems they face in their tax, benefits and employment status affairs,” Mr Prisk said in 2003.

“The Government has marginalised this vital sector of the economy, and as a result they face a raw deal. We aim to end the discrimination and provide an alternative and a fair deal for freelancers.”

Pointing to Gordon Brown’s decision last week to scrap tax-free profits for small companies – covered here by Freelance UK, Mr Prisk reportedly said he now realised the tough challenges ahead.

“We need to find a way to get Government off their backs so they can generate the new ideas, the energy, the wealth and jobs the rest of us need,” he said.

The mission statement is similar to the ideas for enterprise spelt out by David Cameron, Tory leader, when he addressed the CBI conference last month.

Mr Cameron told delegates that Britain’s future prosperity relies on de-stigmatising capitalism, to reverse today’s trend that “for too many people, profit and free trade are dirty words.”

“The consequence has been a massive rise in risk aversion, a willingness to concede power to the state to try and take risks out of life.”

As a result, there should be a “campaign for capitalism,” Mr Cameron added, in order to “educate our citizens about the facts of economic life.”

On tax, the former PR professional said: “It’s essential to reduce taxes on employment and wealth creation in order to enhance our economy’s competitiveness.”

Similar to Mr Cameron, the Tory industry team, led by Alun Duncan MP, all possess business or professional experience, Mr Prisk added.

Dec 14, 2005
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