My constituents who have been badly affected by the loan charge are not wealthy people, and they were doing only what their advisers and employers encouraged and perhaps even coerced them to do. They had no reason to doubt the validity of the advice they received, and they were led to believe that everything was above board and within the law. They are now being asked to pay tax for periods a long time ago, when their financial circumstances were very different and for which they thought the slate had been wiped clean, which is imposing very worrying burdens.
I shall make three brief observations. First, in my constituency, it appears that those working in particular sectors have been hit hard by the loan charge. That is particularly true of those working in IT and in the North sea oil and gas sectors, both of which used to be considerably more attractive, with better pay available than is the case today.
Secondly, it strikes me as both wrong and inherently unjust that HMRC is seeking tax payments from a group of people, many of whom are not well off and are really struggling to get by, yet it is not pursuing those client organisations, agencies and umbrella groups that benefited from setting up these arrangements and actually encouraged and coerced people to enter them in the first place.
Thirdly, a great deal has been said about the retrospective nature of these charges, which change the tax position for past years right back to 1999. In the two sectors I mentioned—IT and oil and gas—job prospects were considerably better at the start of the millennium than they are now. I know the Minister well, and he is someone for whom I have great regard and respect, but I urge him to pause, listen and review.