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Loan Charge 2019: Sir Amyas Morse Review

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 1:29 pm on 19th March 2020.

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Photo of David Davis David Davis Conservative, Haltemprice and Howden 1:29 pm, 19th March 2020

I beg to move,

That this House
believes that the Loan Charge is an unjust and retrospective tax;
notes that the law on the Loan Charge was not settled until 2017;
and calls on HMRC to cease action on loans paid before 2017.

The motion is in my name and those of Ruth Cadbury and my right hon. Friend Dr Lewis, and is supported by some 40 other Members of the House.

I start by commending my right hon. Friend Sir Desmond Swayne for having the courage to beat me to the punch in this particular debate. It may seem strange to outside observers that in the midst of a global pandemic and a huge national crisis that we are talking about a tax technicality—at least, that is how it might appear. But actually it is one of the great virtues of our country that no matter what the crisis, whether it is a pandemic or warfare, the House always pays attention to issues of natural justice. We never ignore issues of natural justice, even in times of crisis. As a matter of justice, which this is, it is not a party political issue. In politics and our business, justice is a matter of honour that we deliver to the British people, and that is what we intend to do today.

The loan charge is an injustice with very large consequences. We have all met and listened to constituents who are facing utter financial ruin as a result of this policy. It is ruining people’s lives. There have been at least seven suicides caused by the stress, anxiety and financial hardship of this policy. To give the House a flavour of that—because it does not apply just to those who have committed suicide but to those who are under stress—here is what the family of one loan charge victim told the all-party group about his suicide note:

“He wrote about being at the end of his tether with the Loan Charge matter. He wrote such awful things about himself things that just weren’t true, that he clearly thought about himself at the time. He wrote that he did not set out to do such wrongdoings;
he wrote about being unable to speak to his GP about his anxiety as he was ashamed, his fear of going to prison, his disgust in himself for getting mixed up in the Loan Charge and his belief that he would now go to hell.”

In the case of this individual, the loan charge policy took not just his money, but his self-respect and eventually his life. And there could be more. According to the loan charge all-party group, 39% of those affected have had suicidal thoughts. I think the Minister will be hard pushed to think of another Government policy that has caused more than a third of those affected to consider suicide. It is no surprise that it is having that effect on people. Some 68% have suffered depression, 71% face bankruptcy, and 49% could lose their homes. I said in the previous debate on this issue that the power to tax has the power to destroy, and that has never been more clearly demonstrated than here.