At Treasury Questions on Tuesday 1st October 2019, the Financial Secretary to the Treasury, Jesse Norman, was slammed by MPs across the House of Commons, for the arrogant and dismissive way he responded to questions on the Loan Charge. He was asked by fellow Conservative MP Peter Bone “how many more people are going to take their lives before the loan charge is scrapped?” as the fact was raised that there have been seven confirmed suicides.
An extraordinary twelve MPs raised the Loan Charge in the House of Commons at Treasury Questions; challenging the Treasury on this controversial policy. Pointedly, Anne Milton told Mr Norman “these comments are coming from Members behind him, not opposite him” showing that the opposition to the Loan Charge is from Government party’s own MPs.
Each one of the twelve, from all sides of the House of Commons, attacked the Loan Charge or the Government’s handling of it – and slammed Jesse Norman’s dismissive and arrogant performance, despite the known suicides.
Carol Monaghan (SNP MP for Glasgow North West) attacked the Loan Charge, saying “Seven needless deaths; seven families tragically left to deal with the consequences, and yet companies such as AML that have promoted the schemes are getting away scot-free. AML and its director, Doug Barrowman, appear to have moved away with no consequences whatever.”
Senior Conservative MPs David Davis and Peter Bone raised the seven Loan Charge suicides yet disgracefully in response, Jesse Norman falsely tried to suggest that there were only three such suicides (as if claiming a lower number is acceptable). He also caused outrage, when being asked about suicides, insisting “there is also the question of collecting the several billion pounds of back tax that is due.” This suggests that Mr Norman considers a few suicides are a price worth paying to collect unproven, disputed taxes.
One of the family members of someone who tragically took their own life said on Twitter, “How dare Jesse Norman say “only three suicides”!!! My dad is one of those three and he was an amazing son, brother, father, grandfather and friend to many but Jesse Norman sees fit to refer to a death like this. What kind of MP would make such a comment? I actually feel sick”.
The Loan Charge Action Group first warned of suicides in a letter to letter to HMRC on 22nd June 2018. LCAG wrote an open letter to the Treasury on 13th September 2019 warning of the acute suicide risk if the Loan Charge and other activity is not suspended. The latest suicide was reported on Saturday 28th September.
Questions were also asked by Nic Dakin (Scunthorpe, Labour), Dr Matthew Offord (Hendon, Conservative), Anne Milton (Guildford, Independent), Gregory Campbell (East Londonderry, DUP), Justine Greening (Putney, Independent), Mr Dominic Grieve (Beaconsfield, Independent) Stephen Metcalfe (South Basildon and East Thurrock, Conservative), Amber Rudd (Hastings and Rye, Independent) John Cryer (Leyton and Wanstead, Labour).
The MPs all slammed the Loan Charge and called for a suspension of all HMRC activity during the Loan Charge review, chaired by Sir Amyas Morse. Among the questioners were four former Conservative Cabinet members, with Amber Rudd describing “heartbreaking meetings with constituents” hearing “tragic and sad stories about the destruction of families”. David Davis and Dominic Grieve, former Attorney General, attacked the retrospective nature of the Loan Charge.
MPs in the Chamber and afterwards made known their displeasure with Jesse Norman’s performance, with Hansard recording MPs chastising Mr Norman for continuing to claim that the Loan Charge isn’t retrospective and for not listening to the clear will of the House.
Justine Greening said the Minister’s response was “unacceptable”. Afterwards Anne Milton tweeted “It is disappointing that Ministers appear not to be listening to the concerns of MPs from both sides of the House”.
There is huge opposition to the Loan Charge in Parliament with over 210 MPs having signed an open letter to Jesse Norman, calling for an independent review and suspension of the Loan Charge. The Loan Charge APPG now has over 170 members and their damning Loan Charge Inquiry called for the retrospective element to be dropped and for sanctions against those who have carried out the cynical campaign of misinformation.
Spokesperson for the Loan Charge Action Group, Steve Packham, said:
“MPs are rightly appalled at the way Jesse Norman dismissed calls to suspend Loan Charge activity, despite the tragic fact that a seventh person has killed themselves facing this immoral policy. It is now clear that Jesse Norman himself is part of the Loan Charge Scandal and in misleading Parliament and trying to deny known suicides, he is guilty of misconduct and should be investigated alongside HMRC.
“MP after MP called for a proper suspension of activity, yet despite knowing that there has just been another tragic suicide, Mr Norman is refusing to stop HMRC’s relentless pursuit of individuals, which is both callous and reckless.
“Jesse Norman as a Treasury Minister has shown himself to be heartless and hapless in equal measure. It’s time that the MPs who are fighting so hard for their constituents now told the Prime Minister that Mr Norman is not a fit person to be in his role and that he should sack him”.