Take That star Gary Barlow should keep OBE - Cameron

Gary Barlow

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David Cameron has rejected calls for Take That singer Gary Barlow to hand back his OBE after it emerged he had put money into a scheme ruled to be set up for tax avoidance purposes.

The chair of the Commons Public Accounts Committee Margaret Hodge had suggested Barlow "might show a bit of contrition by giving back his OBE".

But the PM told ITV's Good Morning Britain that that was not necessary.

He added that Barlow had done a "huge amount" for the country.

During the interview Mr Cameron said he was against "aggressive tax avoidance schemes".

Charity work

He said: "If people go after these schemes and aggressively avoid tax they're making it the case that everyone else has to pay higher taxes as a result."

"We should be very clear: tax evasion is illegal, you can be prosecuted for that, you can go to prison.

"Tax avoidance is, in these cases, these very aggressive tax avoidance schemes, they are wrong and we should really persuade people not to do them, and that's why we have these court cases where the court looks at whether a scheme is more about avoiding tax than anything else.

"The court was very clear in this case."

David Cameron: "Gary Barlow deserved his OBE and I think he should keep it"

But asked whether he agreed with Mrs Hodge that Barlow should consider returning his OBE, Mr Cameron said: "I don't think that is necessary, frankly.

"Gary Barlow has done a huge amount for the country, he's raised money for charity, he has done very well for Children in Need. The OBE was in respect of that work and what he has done.

"Clearly this scheme was wrong and it is right that they're going to have to pay back the money."

'Abuse of the system'

Gary Barlow is one of three members of the band Take That who may have to pay back millions of pounds in tax after a tribunal ruling.

Start Quote

Even though tax avoidance is normally legal, it is still possible to go to prison for it. Tax evasion - a deliberate plan to cheat the taxman - is most definitely an offence. So what is the difference between avoidance and evasion? ”

End Quote

Barlow, Howard Donald and Mark Owen - along with manager Jonathan Wild - were among about 1,000 people who put money into schemes purportedly supporting the music industry.

But tribunal Judge Colin Bishopp ruled the partnerships had actually been set up for tax avoidance purposes.

HM Revenue and Customs said they would not "tolerate abuse of the system".

The Take That stars and their manager invested money through a company called Icebreaker.

Since March 2010, the four men have been directors of Larkdale LLP - one of 50 partnerships that Icebreaker arranged to harness tax reliefs that the government had intended would support those in creative industries.

Gary Barlow performing in Belfast on 29 March 2014 Gary Barlow has found success as a solo artist as well as with Take That

The tribunal found that shortly after money was put in to Larkdale LLP, it reported huge losses of more than £25m.

Those losses could then be offset against tax, reducing the men's tax bills.

The BBC's Andrew Verity said that while Barlow, Donald, Owen and Wild could face repaying millions of pounds between them for the tax relief applied to the losses, the exact amount was not known.

While tax evasion is illegal, tax avoidance is not a criminal activity, he added.

HMRC said that following Judge Bishopp's decision, those involved would receive letters outlining how much tax they had to repay.

An HMRC spokesman told the BBC that "anyone using a scheme that HMRC deems to be against the rules owes them money".

Danny Alexander Mr Alexander has been chief secretary to the Treasury since 2010

Lib Dem Chief Secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander told the BBC: "One of the changes that we introduced in the Budget just a few weeks ago was to make sure that in future, if people participate in these sorts of schemes, they have to pay the money up front to the Exchequer.

"They only get the money back out of the scheme if it is later proven to be successful.

"What has happened in this case is that, under the old system, people were able to take the money that should have legitimately been paid in to the taxpayer, and it has taken years and years of effort and public money… to ensure that we eventually get the money handed back to us.

"That is the change in climate that we are trying to effect, and I think being successful in doing so."

'Cough up'

But Labour's shadow chancellor Ed Balls told BBC Three Counties Radio: "Why should the people with the highest incomes... get off without paying their fair share of tax?

"The government has been rather weak about this in the last couple of years because they have been cutting the number of inspectors, people who can go after these problems. I think it'll take a Labour government to crack down on this."

On the subject of Barlow's OBE he added: "I don't think it is sensible for me, or the prime minister, to be judge and jury. I'm not going to say whether he should keep it or he should lose it. There is an independent process."

Boris Johnson: "He hasn't committed any crime. He should just cough up the money"

Conservative London Mayor Boris Johnson said: "There are no criminal charges. He should just cough up and shouldn't have to hand his OBE back."

In total, the Icebreaker partnerships generated losses of £336m.

HMRC pursued the issue through the courts after the Times newspaper first exposed Icebreaker in 2012.

The members of the scheme have until 2 July to decide whether they want to appeal. HMRC said it would be seeking payment of the tax in the meantime.

The other members of Take That were not involved in the scheme.

John Lennon and Yoko Ono In 1969, John Lennon attempted to rescind his MBE

It is rare, although possible, for honours, like an OBE or a knighthood, to be removed or refused.

There have been some high profile examples of people returning their honours.

Beatles legend John Lennon famously sent his MBE medal back to the Queen "as a protest against Britain's involvement in the Nigeria-Biafra thing, against our support of America in Vietnam and against 'Cold Turkey' slipping down the charts".

Despite this gesture, Lennon's MBE was never formally annulled.

Journalist Yasmin Alibhai-Brown is another MBE recipient to have returned her medal, but the honour was also never annulled. Ms Alibhai-Brown said she took the step in 2003 in protest against the war in Iraq.

Former HBOS chief executive James Crosby asked for his knighthood to be removed in 2013 after MPs found that he had sown the "seeds of destruction" at the bank.

The Honours Forfeiture Committee, which is chaired by civil service head Sir Bob Kerslake, considered the case and decided he should be stripped of the honour. The Queen, who has the final say, agreed, and Sir James became Mr Crosby.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 1914.

    He has done nothing illegal. He has simply followed advice from his accountant. It is the people who design these schemes who need stopping. As a 'so called' pop singer I doubt he is bright enough to have thought of it himself.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1913.

    If I was lucky enough to earn the amount of money Gary Barlow does I certainly would be looking to avoid tax through any loophole possible.

    Truth is Barlow has probably already paid far more in tax than any of us commenting will ever pay in a lifetime.

  • rate this

    Comment number 709.

    Our tax code is deliberately vague.

    If you are rich and/or connected, you can get away with it.

    If you are not rich and/or connected, you will be hounded for every penny and funds will be taken from your bank account with little chance of recovery.

    Unless we are all equal before the law, how can we expect people to respect it?


  • rate this

    Comment number 256.

    When I had to pay a couple of thousand pounds extra tax from my business, I was told I must pay by the end of the month or face the consequences.

    No nice lunch with HMRC, no deal to reduce my tax bill, no months for a leave to appeal. Little people pay taxes and are vigorously pursued if they owe a small amount, the rich and famous can avoid and evade tax and are treated with kid gloves.

  • rate this

    Comment number 206.

    Charity work
    "Gary Barlow has done a huge amount for the country, he's raised money for charity"

    So have I but I still pay my fair share of taxes and, why shouldn't I?
    Charity work does not excuse you from paying tax.


Comments 5 of 6


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    Some extra points on net migration, which has risen to 298,000 in the year ending December 2014.

    • In 2014 there were 8% more work-related visas - up 12,422 to 167,202
    • In 2014 study-related visas rose slightly up 0.7%
    • In 2014 there were 5% more family visas, 6% more asylum applications and enforced removals fell 6%.
    • The number of non-UK nationals in employment in October to December 2014 was 3m, an increase of 239,000 or 9% from the comparable quarter in 2013
    • This change was driven by EU nationals: EU nationals in employment increased to 1.8m (+269,000; +17%), whereas non-EU nationals in employment decreased to 1.1m (-29,000; -2.5%).
    13:13: "Jihadi John' unmasked BBC Radio 4

    Security services have known for some time that the masked Islamic State militant known as "Jihadi John" was Kuwaiti-born British man Mohammed Emwazi, it has emerged. The Liberal Democrat MP Sir Menzies Campbell who sits on Parliament's Intelligence and Security Committee, claims he only discovered the identity of Emwazi himself today. He says although the committee is entitled to evidence relating to certain security operations it is only entitled to that evidence after the operations have been completed, so as to avoid "a running commentary".

    12:59: Miliband woos manufacturers

    Ed Miliband has pledged to be a "champion" for engineering and manufacturing if he becomes prime minister after the general election. At the EEF conference, the Labour leader warned company bosses they may not always agree with what his government does. But he insisted they would always have "a voice", adding: "Our future depends on you."

    12:54: BBC' hopeful' over election debates (pt2)
    First Minister of Northern Ireland Peter Robinson

    But Mr Robinson has said he hadn't heard anything from the BBC representatives that was new or strengthened what he described as their "threadbare argument". He said his party would await an outcome to its appeal to the BBC Trust, which is expected to be heard next month, and this would provide the BBC and other broadcasters with an opportunity to change their position before the matter goes to court.

    12:53: BBC 'hopeful' over election debates (pt1)

    The BBC's director of news and current affairs, James Harding, says he remains extremely hopeful that UK general election TV debates will be broadcast as planned in April. Mr Harding met the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) leader, Peter Robinson, in Belfast today to discuss the DUP's complaint that they have not been invited to take part in a seven party debate, even though Scottish and Welsh nationalists will participate.

    12:46: Meaningless target Daily Politics Live on BBC Two

    The net migration target is a meaningless one, Labour's David Hanson tells Daily Politics. The shadow immigration minister is pressed over whether Labour has a target number. Mr Hanson refuses to do so, saying he is interested in the long term interests of the British economy. He does say he would take students out of the immigration figures - "about 80,000 a year".

    @daily_politics Race for City Hall Daily Politics Live on BBC Two

    London mayor bid: "There could still be candidates who may come out of the woodwork later on, I don't know who they are though" @IvanMassow

    12:33: Not looking back in anger... Brian Wheeler Political reporter
    Noel Gallagher

    UKIP's Steven Woolfe has another claim to fame (apart from appearing on Britain's top rated lunchtime politics show). The former hedge fund lawyer, who grew up in a tough part of Manchester, was in the same primary school class as Oasis star Noel Gallagher. He once told me the famously gobby rock legend was a "straightforward" character. As if to prove the point, Gallagher said last week that Nigel Farage "doesn't look capable of running a corner shop, let alone a country".

    12:23: UKIP on migration figures Daily Politics Live on BBC Two
    Steven woolfe

    UKIP migration spokesman Steven Woolfe tells the Daily Politics "there needs to be a radical review of how we deal with net migration". He says UKIP would set a cap on gross migration into the UK of "50,000 for those who have the right to work with the option for permanent residence here". There would still be flexibility for short term work needs, he says, but that move "would take out 167,000 of these figures each year".

    Earlier Mr Woolfe told reporters government policy was "fatally holed beneath the water line and is sinking fast".

    12:22: Pic: The Daily Politics line-up Daily Politics Live on BBC Two
    Daily Politics
    12:19: Empty chaired Daily Politics Live on BBC Two
    Daily Politics graphic

    The net migration figures are being discussed on Daily Politics now. Andrew Neil says no Conservative ministers, or MPs were available to come on to the show to discuss the figures. He reads out a list of questions that he would have asked them.

    12:08: PM on Savile report Carole Walker Political correspondent, BBC News

    A spokeswoman for the Prime Minister said David Cameron believes that the fact that Jimmy Savile's "horrific abuse was allowed to go on for so long" shows the need to learn lessons, which is why the government set up the Kate Lampard review. She said decisions on prosecutions are a matter for the prosecuting authorities, the issue for the government is "to make sure such horrific abuse does not happen in future".

    The spokeswoman said there are already stronger incentives for staff and managers to pass on information about their concerns, but she said "the prime minister wants to do more". She said he is committed to consulting on mandatory reporting of child abuse and will now seek to extend that to vulnerable adults too.

    12:03: 'Jihadi John' named Carole Walker Political correspondent, BBC News

    A spokeswoman for the Prime Minister said she would not confirm or deny reports that Jihadi John has been named as Mohammed Emwazi. She said "we do not confirm or deny matters relating to the intelligence services". On the alleged murders of British hostages, she said "we are absolutely determined to bring the perpetrators to justice" and said the police and security services are working hard to do that.

    11:59: A packed show Daily Politics Live on BBC Two

    Coming up on the Daily Politics from 12:00-13:00: Andrew Neil and Jo Coburn on the report into Jimmy Savile which described him as an "opportunistic predator" at Stoke Mandeville Hospital, and talking migration figures with UKIP's Steven Woolfe and Labour's David Hanson, plus the future of the BBC licence fee.

    They will also hear about Ivan Massow's bid to be a future mayor of London, and he talks gay politics with Peter Tatchell. And Conservative MP Robert Jenrick, will draw on his past work for Christies, as he looks at the finances and rare antiquities of the so-called Islamic State (ISIS).

    You can watch the programme live on the 'Live coverage' tab above.

    11:54: Chart: Net migration over the years
    Net migration over the years
    Hugh Pym Health editor

    tweets: Andy Burnham calls for more formal inquiry into role of Dept of Health,ministers,hospital chiefs in giving Savile power at Stoke Mandeville

    11:50: Labour response on Savile House of Commons Parliament
    Andy Burnham

    Shadow health Secretary Andy Burnham lends Labour's support to Jeremy Hunt's announcement. "It beggars belief that abuse on this scale known to many people was allowed to go on", he says. He adds that increasing accountability must now be the priority for "this government and the next, and the next".

    11:48: Hunt statement on Savile abuse House of Commons Parliament

    Jeremy Hunt says the government will now consult on making the reporting of sexual abuse of children and adults mandatory, with a view to implementing the change.

    11:47: Hunt statement on Savile abuse House of Commons Parliament

    Mr Hunt says he is not accepting the recommendation that all volunteers should have an increased criminal record check, as it would be wrong to substitute national database for "local common sense". He adds that this measure would not have stopped Jimmy Savile - a fact conceded by Kate Lampard.

    11:44: PM on migration figures

    Downing Street has reacted to the migration figures. A spokeswoman said the Prime Minister "is disappointed".

    "He had said previously that we have not made as much progress as he would like but he had also said that he doesn't regret making this commitment because he thinks it is in the interests of our country, that we will have a better, stronger country, if we have lower net migration."

    11:40: Hunt statement on Savile abuse House of Commons Parliament
    Jeremy Hunt

    There are further investigations going on in schools and hospitals, Mr Hunt says, and he encourages victims to come forward.

    He tells MPs that the report found that Jimmy Savile exploited his victims because of the specialist care were only be able to receive at Stoke Mandeville Hospital.

    Nine complaints were made, including one formal complaint, but all were ignored because of Savile's celebrity status and the money he brought to the hospital, Mr Hunt says.

    11:38: Hunt statement on Savile abuse

    More from the health secretary's statement: "We have a collective responsibility to investigate all serious allegations properly in a way that simply didn't happen time after time."

    11:35: Breaking News

    Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt has begun giving an oral statement in the Commons on the Savile abuse reports. "Never again must the power of money or celebrity blind us to ... clear signals" that minors were being abused, he says.

    11:34: House building plan

    Mr Cable says there is a "massive" issue of affordability, especially in London. He adds the housing crisis is "profoundly damaging", and that more needs to be done to help builders access finance. Councils should also be encouraged to build houses, and more public land should be freed up for development, he adds.

    11:30: House building plan unveiled
    A general view of roof workers building new houses

    Plans to tackle the housing crisis, including building more homes off-site to cut costs and increase productivity, have been unveiled by the government. Business Secretary Vince Cable says there is an urgent demand for new, affordable homes because only 150,000 houses were built last year, half the number needed.

    Immigration Terence Ward from Cheshire

    These numbers show that currently the UK government has no powers to police our borders. Something needs to change, either change EU laws to allow us to control our borders from poorer EU countries or we have to seriously think about our membership of the EU. I don't want to leave the EU if it is agreed it is better to stay but we are under an attack of immigrants who are flocking here for a better life, which is in turn changing life as we know it in a detrimental way.

    11:21: Rotherham commissioners announced

    Communities secretary Eric Pickles has just announced the commissioners he will be nominating to investigate the Rotherham child abuse scandal. He has nominated Sir Derek Myers to be the Lead Commissioner. Stella Manzie CBE will take the role of the managing director commissioner, and Malcolm Newsam will be nominated as children's social care commissioner. Mary Ney and Julie Kenny CBE will be nominated as supporting commissioners.

    11:12: Minister criticises rival parties BBC News Channel

    James Brokenshire also tells Norman Smith that "unfortunately" the Lib Dems and Labour are not committed in the same way to cutting migration numbers to sustainable levels as the Conservatives are "and", he adds, "UKIP certainly don't have any answers".

    11:12: 'Sustainable levels' of migration is target BBC News Channel
    James Brokenshire

    Asked by Norman Smith if the target of getting net migration below 100,000 will be a pledge again at this year's election James Brokenshire says the Conservatives' goal remains to get net migration figures down to long-term sustainable levels.

    11:04: Minister blames EU and Lib Dems BBC News Channel

    In an interview with Norman Smith to be shown shortly on the BBC News Channel, immigration minister James Brokenshire says the net migration stats - up to 298,000 in the new figures for the year to September 2014 - are disappointing. But he says the government has "said for some time that our target of reducing net migration... would not be met because of the pressures from the EU. We have also been constrained in government by Liberal Democrats who don't have that same aim and focus on reducing net migration down."

    10:58: What would Labour do? BBC News Channel

    Asked what Labour do, Yvette Cooper says there would be "much stronger" border controls to tackle illegal immigration with 1,000 more border staff paid for by visa charges, more investment in the skills and apprenticeships "we need in Britain" and tighter controls "on areas being abused by people overstaying".

    10:50: Unskilled workers BBC News Channel

    Yvette Cooper tells Norman Smith that skilled and talented people are needed but the migration figures reflect the fact not enough effort is being put into training British people via apprenticeships. The shadow home secretary also says there are recruitment agencies bringing in low paid unskilled workers, which needs to be tackled.

    10:42: Labour: Cameron policy 'in tatters' BBC News Channel
    Yvette Cooper

    Shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper has told Norman Smith in an interview to appear on the BBC News Channel shortly that the migration figures showed David Cameron's policy was "in tatters". She says immigration needs to be controlled in a way that is "fair" and criticises David Cameron and Theresa May for making "grand promises".

    10:36: One in six chance of 'Brexit'
    European Union flags flutter outside the EU Commission headquarters in Brussels

    There is about a one-in-six chance of the UK leaving the European Union over the course of the next Parliament, according to a new Brexit Barometer. The measure, drawn up by think tank OpenEurope, puts the chance of the UK quitting Europe at 17%, with an overwhelming 83% likelihood it will stay. A poll carried out for OpenEurope suggested that 41% of voters would opt to quit the EU and just 37% to stay in, if a referendum was held under the current terms of membership. But positions were reversed - with 47% voting to remain and 32% to leave - if the 28-nation bloc was successfully reformed.

    10:31: 'Outward-facing' UK

    Migrants' Rights Network director Don Flynn says the latest migration figures reflect the UK's growing economy: "What these numbers show is that Britain is more than ever an outward-facing, globalised country with a diverse and hardworking population from overseas."

    10:31: Net migration target

    "Rising work-related migration from outside the EU has also contributed." Sunder Katwala, director of British Future, says of today's immigration figures. "If the Prime Minister remains in denial about the broken target, he is setting himself up for five more years of failure. It is already clear there is next to no chance of meeting the same target in the next parliament either."

    10:30: Immigration

    Madeleine Sumption, director of the Migration Observatory at the University of Oxford, says UK job growth is likely to be a key factor behind the recent increase in net migration. "If the UK's economic performance compared to the rest of the EU had been poor, then we might well have seen net migration fall, but that has not happened," she adds

    @RobynVinter Ed Balls Day 2015 Robyn Vinter, Business reporter, Londonlovesbusiness

    tweets: Only 60 sleeps until Ed Balls Day 2015. I still haven't started my shopping or put decorations up

    10:15: Savile abuse reports

    Dr Androulla Johnstone, lead investigator into Jimmy Savile's abuse at Stoke Mandeville Hospital, tells a news conference: "All NHS services should be alert to predatory sexual offenders like Savile who can be placed in a position of trust and authority." The full story is here.



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