Loan Charge

Part of Brunei – in the House of Commons at 1:07 pm on 4th April 2019.

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Photo of David Davis David Davis Conservative, Haltemprice and Howden 1:07 pm, 4th April 2019

My hon. Friend is absolutely right, and I will come back to that point in a second.

This also rests on this point of judgment: how does an ordinary lay person forecast what HMRC will decide in 10 or 20 years’ time? We see this—unlike others, I am not going to butter up the Treasury Bench today—even in the responses of Ministers in previous debates and even in the letter we received from the Financial Secretary this morning. He talked about the reason for the definition of this scheme, and said it was for the

“sole purpose of avoiding tax”.

Well, I have news for the House: I have at least a couple of ISAs—individual savings accounts—which are there for the sole purpose of avoiding tax. Are they now illegal? Is that the criterion we should apply? Well, plainly not.

There is a real issue about the approach of HMRC, and I am going to be rather harder than the all-party group in my recommendations. I think it is being just a little bit too reasonable, and I will come back to that in second. [Interruption.] I think a number of Conservative colleagues are threatening to sue me for calling Sir Edward Davey reasonable.

Before I come to my main point, I want to go back to the report on this subject carried out by the House of Lords Economic Affairs Committee. We all have very emotional cases impacting on our judgment, but we cannot say that about the House of Lords. The House of Lords looked at this incredibly dispassionately. Its Members do not have constituents, so they can in a way be viewed as much more dispassionate than us. Let me remind the House of a few of the Committee’s findings.

The Committee found that the Public Bill Committee for the Finance (No. 2) Bill in 2017

“did not adequately scrutinise the loan charge.”

That is incredibly important for something that will be retrospective, but it did not properly scrutinise the loan charge. I think it was spoken about only by the Minister and the Opposition spokesman, and by nobody else.

The Committee said that many witnesses told it that they had joined these schemes—this is the point made by my hon. Friend Mr Gyimah—without being aware of HMRC’s attitude towards them. Many were assured by employers or promoters that these schemes were above board and, indeed, as he said, they could not have had the jobs if they had not accepted the terms.