Contractors, protest with us against Loan Charge 2019 on September 4th

On Wednesday September 4th, a week before Parliament is to be ‘prorogued’, contractors and families are once again heading to Westminster to protest against the 2019 Loan Charge and you’re invited, writes Steve Packham, co-founder of the Loan Charge Action Group.

There’s been demonstration against the charge previously, but this time we’ve got a very simple message and it’s to prime minister Boris Johnson -- honour your commitment to suspend the Loan Charge and order an independent review.

This will be the third Westminster protest of the Loan Charge Action Group, the group representing the thousands of families facing ruin, loss of jobs and homes as a result of the grubby Loan Charge. It’s a policy that was snuck through a Finance Bill Committee in 2017 with MPs at the time having no understanding of the devastation it would inevitably cause.   

Back in October 2018, when we first went to Westminster, most MPs didn’t know anything about the Loan Charge. But with campaigners meeting MPs in parliament and at constituency surgeries, more and more MPs became aware it. It is now seen in Westminster as a scandal of bad policy making and deliberate disinformation, as well as a bad policy with disastrous consequences for those hit both by it and unpayable retrospective tax bills.  

Our Loan Charge protest this Wednesday has a simple message: that the PM, who himself has backed a suspension and review, must now act. He must call upon his chosen chancellor of the exchequer, Sajid Javid, to immediately suspend the Loan Charge. This has to be done now, before parliament is prorogued, as the deadline for people to self-declare relevant loans is the end of September.

With six suicides now known to have happened of people facing the Loan Charge (and more suspected), any further delay would be risking further tragedies. As it is, the Loan Charge Action Group helpline has been experiencing a dramatic increase in calls of people reporting suicidal thoughts. They are actually just barely coping with the demand. This all has to stop and stop now, before more lives are lost and families torn apart.   

The day of the protest, Wednesday 4th, is the day of Sajid Javid’s hastily announced Spending Review -- a mini-budget, and one that will tell the country how different he and this Treasury is from the one led by Philip Hammond.  The former chancellor will long remain a hate figure for UK contractors over his ‘war on contracting’ -- especially over the way he made false statements related to the Loan Charge and the way he laughed off questions, including about Loan Charge-related suicides, in the House of Commons.

So it’s time for Boris and Sajid to listen and act. The support from MPs has been extraordinary and – for many people facing ruin – overwhelming, even life-saving. The Loan Charge APPG officers have led the campaign with real resolve and now many senior figures across the House of Commons are also calling for a halt to the Loan Charge. 

An amazing 214 MPs have signed an open letter to the financial secretary to the Treasury, Jesse Norman, calling for a suspension and delay. And, over the last few weeks, we have also seen over 100 MPs writing individual letters to the chancellor and prime minister too.  For 100 MPs to write individual letters is remarkable enough. For them to have done so over the summer recess, and at a time of such political turmoil, is extraordinary and unprecedented.

As difficult as it is for people to take time off work and to travel to London at short notice (the protest has been brought forward to coincide with the Spending Review and avoid prorogation week), we hope that people will come and tell Boris what he has told us – and MPs – that he will do: end the Loan Charge scandal.

We will be there from 10:15am and hope you will join us. As suggested by Yorkshire Post’s editor Jay Mitchinson, all supportive MPs are being asked to come and have a photo with campaigners outside Parliament at 11am. While we know that they will not all be able to come out, with so many MPs publicly calling for a suspension, we hope that a good number will. We will also be delivering a letter to the prime minister and to chancellor as well as holding a vigil outside HMRC to those who have tragically taken their own lives facing the Loan Charge. They must be the last of the loan charge suicides. 

When the dust has settled, there must indeed be a review. Lessons must be learnt so that, not only is the Loan Charge Scandal dealt with, but that it does not happen again. It’s clear that reform of HMRC and their profound lack of accountability must also be addressed.

So for all those affected by the Loan Charge and their families – and also all those who believe that this retrospective legislation is (in the words of many MPs) an ‘affront to the rule of law,’ come and join us on Wednesday. Let’s tell the prime minister and chancellor to listen, to save lives and to finally stop the Loan Charge. Come to show your support for fairness and for the British rule of law.

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Written by Steve Packham

Steve Packham is a contractor, and founder member, executive committee member and spokesperson for Loan Charge Action Group (LCAG).
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