Loan Charge

Part of Brunei – in the House of Commons at 1:27 pm on 4th April 2019.

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Photo of Royston Smith Royston Smith Conservative, Southampton, Itchen 1:27 pm, 4th April 2019

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. I think that we are finding a consensus across the House, in that we all agree with that. People did ask these questions. They were convinced by those who promoted the schemes that sometimes it was the only thing that they could do, but that the schemes were legal. Some of the people asked these questions of HMRC.

The worst of it is that it looks very much like we sometimes just go after the low-hanging fruit. It is easy to chase such people rather than those who promoted the schemes and landed them in this trouble. Everyone has said—I will say it too—that these are real people. When people affected first came to see me in my constituency, I did not know very much about this, but when they told me about it and the figures that they might have to pay, it was devastating. I could not believe what they have been told might happen to them. I thought, “What if that was me? What if someone came to me and said, ‘You owe tens of thousands of pounds’?” Frankly, I would have no way of paying that amount without a significant change to my life. Fine—maybe if I deserved it I would have that coming, but if people did not know that, why should their life have to change so much, to the point where some have now felt that their life is no longer worth living? Driving people to bankruptcy is not the answer. We should be finding out how this happened and discovering who is culpable, including HMRC.