Like many other Members, I have a number of affected constituents. When one of them first came to see me in my MP’s surgery, I listened. It was a complex tax case and it soon became clear that the way in which it was being handled was genuinely not how I had been used to seeing things dealt with during my time as a Treasury Minister. I and many of my colleagues, including my next-door neighbour, the Minister for Health, my hon. Friend Stephen Hammond, are right to raise our concerns, not least because of the very personal impact the issue is having on thousands of people around the country who have this hanging over them without anything being done to resolve the situation, other than those who represent them setting out how much of an impact it is having on their lives.
I have young constituents who are contractors and have been unwittingly caught up in this. They did all the right things, including asking their accountant and checking whether a QC had approved a scheme. An older gentleman who is caught up in it is looking at having to sell his home. He is in his 70s and clearly has no ability to go back into the workplace to even begin to recoup some of the money that HMRC is now claiming he should pay.
There are a number of issues, but in the end it comes down to how we in this House, and HMRC, look at the concept of fairness in taxation. I think that HMRC has simply got it wrong and is striking the wrong balance. I agree that the Financial Secretary is a talented Minister, but in the end it is these more challenging areas of policy that make or break a reputation, rather than the ability to do a brilliant job from day to day on turning around constituency casework where, as others have said, he is almost unparalleled in his assiduousness. I hope that he will use his talent to find a way through and to come up with a compromise to achieve a quick resolution.
The approach being taken circumvents taxpayer protections on time limits on HMRC inquiries, as many have said. The bottom line is that, overwhelmingly, people declared these arrangements transparently. They sent in their tax returns and, as has been said, some were given tax rebates. They were given no indication that HMRC was ever going to come back to those years.