Why seven grieving families deserve inquiry into independence of loan charge review - Greg Wright

When the Treasury announced the Morse review into the loan charge last year, it was keen to trumpet its “independent” status.
More than 220 MPs are members of  the Loan Charge APPGMore than 220 MPs are members of  the Loan Charge APPG
More than 220 MPs are members of the Loan Charge APPG

This claim has a bitter ring for opponents of the controversial policy, after a Freedom of Information (FOI) request revealed the extent of the close relationship between the Treasury and the review team.

The tireless work of the Loan Charge All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) has found evidence of “clear cooperation and collaboration” between the Treasury and HMRC and the review over dealing with the press. In at least one case, lines were provided for the review team to use, the APPG concluded.

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The review secretariat is also said to have discussed responses to press approaches with the Chancellor’s press secretary.

In one exchange - uncovered by the APPG - the review team member of staff who is a senior Treasury official agrees to buy beers for the Chancellor’s press secretary.

When offering to help deal with incoming press enquiries directed at the review, about the report, the Chancellor’s own press secretary was asked to find someone to help with this and tells the loan charge Review: “Cool. Yes we can help. You owe us beers”.

The reply from the supposedly independent review secretariat is: “Great really appreciate it. And happy to line up the beers”.

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The Loan Charge APPG has made it clear they are making no criticism of Sir Amyas Morse, nor for his delivery of this report in what they describe as an unreasonably short timeframe, considering the scale of the evidence.

A Government spokesperson is still claiming the loan charge review was fully independent and its recommendations led to significant legislative changes.

The spokesperson added: “Sir Amyas had complete independence and full discretion over how the review was run, which stakeholders and individuals it engaged with and the content of the final report.”

Anyone doubting the terrible human cost of the loan charge saga, should meet Gayle, who is still mourning the loss of her dearly loved father.

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I had the privilege of interviewing her last year, shortly after the review was announced. She had a kind, loving father who was adored by his family.

But, in the final months of his life, he felt consumed by shame, despite being a model citizen who would never dream of trying to avoid his responsibilities as a tax payer.

He took his own life in 2018. He was a consultant engineer in his late sixties, who had been informed that he faced the loan charge, and an unexpected bill of around £50,000.

Today, Gayle published a letter to all MPs to provide an insight into the misery caused by the loan charge.

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In the letter , which was published on Twitter, she states that the loan charge was mentioned in her father’s suicide note.

It said: “We were deeply disappointed when the review was published...Nothing can now bring back my dad and nothing can take away our family’s pain and loss.

“But you can now do the right thing and vote to stop more loan charge suicides.”

Given the significant public interest in the loan charge, there is only one way for this controversy to be cleared up once and for all. There must be a full inquiry, carried out by somebody with no ties to Government.

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To quote Sir Ed Davey, who is aiming to become the next leader of the Liberal Democrats: “As one of the MPs who has campaigned tirelessly on behalf of the people who face financial ruin because of loan charge, I cannot believe what this FOI reveals.

“There needs to be a full and open inquiry, not a Government stitch up.”

Seven suicides have been reported to the APPG. The very least these grieving families should expect is a thorough re-examination of the evidence surrounding the review’s much vaunted independence.

If the Government is so confident that the review was truly independent, then it will surely welcome this call for an open inquiry, which has been made by a respected Parliamentarian.

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