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Loan Charge 2019: Sir Amyas Morse Review

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 3:05 pm on 19th March 2020.

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Photo of Peter Dowd Peter Dowd Shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury 3:05 pm, 19th March 2020

Well, that is a view. Kevin Hollinrake talked about how something that looks too good to be true is too good to be true. People have to take that on board when they become in involved in such schemes, as lots of people have, right across the spectrum, from those who are pretty wealthy all the way down to people who earn quite small sums.

It is the responsibility of this House to ensure that people are treated fairly. I do not want to get into the argument about whether HMRC has treated people fairly or unfairly. I accept in good faith what Members have said today about how their constituents have been treated. That has to be set in the context of the issue of HMRC’s resources. A third of its staff have gone since cuts in 2005 and later in 2010. Any increases in the cash amounts available to HMRC for its running have, in effect, been blocked. That is a factor that we must take into account as well.

The primary issue here is whether the enablers—the people everybody has talked about today—are getting away scot-free. I suspect that the Minister will tell us the extent of the Government’s and HMRC’s action to tackle these enablers, but I suspect that it will not be enough and the Government will have to sharpen up their footwork.

Whether HMRC has been aggressive is, again, a moot point. However, we know some of the enablers have also been incredibly aggressive. The Rangers FC issue trundled on for the best part of 13 years, with enablers—the accountants and lawyers—taking it right to the line and beyond, so let us not pretend there was not aggression from those who were attempting to push and push the boundaries, hence the reason for commensurate potential retrospective legislation.

I do not want to take much time, and everything has already been said today. It is important not just that the letter of the report and all its recommendations are put in place, but that the spirit of the report in relation to closed cases and so on is taken into account, and specifically the recommendation for a £30,000, 10-year limit, which the Government rejected.

The Government should have a word—I put it as gently as that—with HMRC about people’s perception of how it has behaved. It is important for Ministers to get that view across to HMRC. As David Simmonds said, it is about balance. We need balance in dealing with this matter, and I hope the Government can get that balance right.