I hope that I can complete my speech before rain stops play—I think it is probably some kind of symbol of how many people view Parliament as broken, but let us return to the matter in hand.
I congratulate Ross Thomson on securing the debate. Clearly this issue has caused much distress, and brutally so at times. Of course, if tax is due, it should be collected. Without the ability to raise funds from taxation, our public services will obviously grind to a halt, but my concern, and that of many other hon. Members, is about how the loan charge and the recovery of it has been handled to date. It raises many questions about how HMRC can say in all honesty that each individual case is being looked at properly before the menacing letters are sent out. Let me make it clear that if, following due process, it is determined that money is owed, it should be recovered in a fair, consistent and reasonable manner. However, what I have heard raises questions about HMRC’s capacity to deal with these issues properly.
I previously raised the issue of my constituent Mr Crook when we debated the matter in Westminster Hall back in November. I recounted the six times that he had contacted HMRC about his potential liability without any response. I explained the immense anxiety that he was feeling, because he was not getting any answers and feared bankruptcy. Since my involvement, there have been responses from HMRC. I am sure that it was entirely coincidental that they came the week after the Westminster Hall debate.
I wish that I could say that we had somehow managed to reach a happy ending, but we have had tales about spam boxes and deleted emails and about how, in that wonderful phrase, my constituent’s request will be “progressed within the normal timescales”. Yet here we are, 360 days after my constituent registered his interest with HMRC, and still no agreement has been reached. My constituent is not the only one in this position, so I repeat the question that I raised back in November: does the Department consider itself to have sufficient resources to deal with this issue?