Loan Charge

Part of Brunei – in the House of Commons at 1:56 pm on 4th April 2019.

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Photo of Mike Penning Mike Penning Conservative, Hemel Hempstead 1:56 pm, 4th April 2019

I should not be here today. I should be at the funeral of my constituent Graham Smart. He was the chairman of Leverstock Green football club, and as his constituency MP and president of Hemel Hempstead football club—another community club—I desperately wanted to be there and had promised to attend. However, my place is here in this debate, making sure that I stand up for, initially, one of my constituents, who came to see me many months ago, which is when I joined the all-party group. I was informed this morning that I now have 100 constituents who are affected by the loan charge.

I sat in on some of the all-party group’s evidence sessions. There is a really important point to make here. We have Select Committees in this House and other Committees. All-party parliamentary groups can be a complete waste of time, or they can really make a difference. I jointly chair one of these groups—the all-party group on medical cannabis under prescription—and we managed to change the law. I truly hope that the all-party loan charge group, with the backing of the House, will be able to sway Ministers and the Treasury’s view on this, which I think is one of the great disasters that we are bringing on our communities.

More than 900 years ago, this House was formed to represent the people who paid tax. Admittedly, it was completely unelected in those days, but that remains our job. Unlike some of my colleagues, I have clearly upset the Financial Secretary to the Treasury. I was over-zealous defending my constituents. I have apologised to him privately and I apologise to him publicly now. I think that he is fundamentally wrong in what he said to me, but at the end of the day that is his opinion and, I am sure, the Treasury’s. In my opinion, what is happening here is that some of my constituents took advice from the companies—if they had not, they would not have got the job—and from some very large taxation accountants; they submitted completely openly that they were in one of these schemes; they had a registration number from Her Majesty’s Treasury; and now they are getting bills for hundreds of thousands of pounds, which, as we have heard, is completely and utterly destroying their lives.

Like lots of colleagues, I have had constituents come to me. I am not making it up, but I am not going to name these people, because—it is part of the problem we face—they are too ashamed to tell their loved ones that these bills are coming down the line. They are petrified of their employers knowing. Many of the people in my constituency who have come to see me and written to me are employed in the financial sector in the City. There is absolutely no doubt that they will lose their jobs and their livelihoods.