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

On that basis, Mr Deputy Speaker, I will not give way anymore. It would be right and proper to let colleagues speak, no matter how short their contributions.

My hon. Friend makes a good point. Is there is one rule on taxation in this country for one person—a small business—and another for others, or am I missing something here? For instance, a constituent came to see me who worked alongside a colleague who was in the same kind of scheme. Constituent A had had his scheme agreed and closed. He had disclosed everything, including the registration number and the DOTAS number, and it was closed—finished. He came to me because he sat next-door to a colleague who was doing exactly the same job under exactly the same contract and exactly the same kind of scheme, with exactly the same declarations, but for nearly 15 years this scheme had been left open. There is something fundamentally wrong in that.

The Lords Committee’s conclusions are eminently sensible. I agree with my right hon. Friend Mr Davis that perhaps they could have been a bit stronger, but that might have lost some people on each side. We can work with them. I am slightly concerned about the reference to tax judges. Ray McCann, the president of the Chartered Institute of Taxation, has said that technically the charge is not retrospective—so that is the position the taxation people are going to come from—but he went on to say that it has an effect of being retrospective. That sounds like semantics to everybody else out there, but that is what a specialist judge involved in taxation will look at when we argue the point. The point is that it is clearly retrospective, and that is where the Minister and I completely disagree.

The Minister has an absolutely golden opportunity to say, “Stop. Let’s see what the effect is here.” Why are we picking on these people who in many cases cannot pay—not will not pay but cannot pay. As we heard earlier, they are being advised to get loans. How are they going to do that? Where is the equity? Are they going to use their house? Many of them are of a similar age to myself. They have absolutely no chance. They can pay through the nose on interest rates and borrow money from anybody, but do we really want to encourage that? Or, would we like to say, “We think something has gone wrong here.”?

The House has come together—I think the chairman of the all-party group, Sir Edward Davey, said the group represents six parties—because there is something seriously wrong. These people are petrified. My constituent said to me, “If my wife finds out about this—she has suicidal tendencies, and we already have major problems.” Other constituents say they need to come out of retirement—“I’ve been out of the IT industry for about five or six years now. I have no chance of coming back into the industry.” Others work in the finance world and if their employers find out that action is being taken in this sort of way, they have had it. What are we doing driving people into this sort of debt when they thought they were doing the right thing?

I say to the Minister in all candour: take a look around the House today, a Thursday on a one-line Whip. Even the Whips could not have got this many people in here from both sides of the House, given what is going on at the moment. [Laughter.] I am really serious: I do not think the Whips could have got this many people in here on a Thursday, on a one-line Whip. What has driven us here is our constituents. It is our job. It is what this Parliament was set up to do—to defend the little guy against the big guy. The big guy is the Government, and we will defend the little guy.