On Thursday 11th April 2019, Richard Harrington MP, spoke in the House of Commons:
I would firstly like to thank my hon. Friend for Aberdeen South (Ross Thomson MP) and others for securing this important debate. I was unfortunately unable to participate last week, but I’ve caught up on it and would like to associate myself with the passionate contributions of members from across the House. It’s great to see that there is such cross-Party support for this issue, although it’s sadly perhaps not surprising given the huge number of people that are affected by this across the country.
Excellent points have been made which I would like to reaffirm. The key concerns have been well made but I would also like to share the personal concerns that my constituents have with the Treasury Minister.
In Watford, at least 160 people have been contacted by HMRC which makes my community one of the ones worst hit.
It’s clear from speaking to my constituents that this is putting immense mental and personal strain on them. The impact of the way HMRC is imposing this charge is greatly concerning and I would like to pay my respects to those who are said to have tragically taken their lives because of the enormous stress of the loan charge.
I’m in regular contact with a number of my constituents passionately campaigning on this issue who are also feeling completely helpless. I would like to acknowledge them and the great pressure that they’re under. They know who they are and they know they have my full support.
Whilst only a recent member of the APPG, I would like to praise their great work so far. I think the recent report that other hon. Friends have referenced throughout the debate, speaks volumes for the concern that members have about the loan charge.
The most consistent issue that’s been raised with me is that my constituents declared to HMRC that they were involved with these schemes and were even given the corresponding reference numbers for their tax returns only now to be told that they have always been illegal.
Whilst I commend this Government’s record on tackling tax evasion, surely on this occasion, the way HMRC is going about this is grossly unjust.
Many people have outlined to me how their accountants advised that these schemes were completely legal and in many cases, employers encouraged or even required employees to use them. They acted in good faith, thinking they were acting legally and are now being penalised for following this advice. In many cases, I understand that these accountancy firms are still in operation and have not been penalised whilst my constituents suffer greatly. This can’t be right.
My constituents are decent, ordinary, hardworking people who are facing huge bills that will render them bankrupt in most cases. One constituent recently told me that his bill is close to £250,000 and he despairs as to how to pay it. Given HMRC are going back decades, people are often paying huge sums on money earned over many many years that is impossible to pay without facing destitution and without ruining their life’s career achievements or future employment prospects.
People are under enormous pressure when faced with astronomical figures they don’t have the time to dispute because of harsh deadlines issued by HMRC, and in many cases aren’t able to fight their corner because they no longer have the paperwork decades later. I’m also told that some are finding that the paperwork and calculations that HMRC are producing is questionable and incomplete too making it all the more difficult.
As a result, my constituents are genuinely fearing losing their homes, their families and their life’s work. Indeed one constituent has now been made homeless and his child has been taken to live on the other side of the world. The consequences of this are truly devastating.
To conclude my comments, on behalf of the people of Watford and across the country, I implore the Treasury to do the right thing and put the loan charge on hold whilst we investigate the very real impact this is having on thousands of people.