The PM says Barlow should not have to hand back his OBE

Prime Minister David Cameron has defended Gary Barlow in light of recent allegations that Take That members Barlow, Howard Donald and Mark Owen had invested in a tax avoidance scheme.

Speaking to ITV’s Good Morning Britain, Cameron said that he was against “aggressive tax avoidance schemes” but that Barlow should not have to hand back his OBE over the matter.

“I don’t think that’s necessary frankly,” he said. “Gary Barlow has done a huge amount for the country… He’s raised money for charity, he’s done very well for Children in Need so I’m not sure [he should be stripped of] his OBE in respect of the work he has done.”

Barlow, Donald and Owen are amongst a group of 1,000 wealthy investors now facing large tax bills after a tribunal ruled that a partnership they invested in was a tax avoidance scheme. As first reported in 2012, the Take That members each invested in Barlow’s Larkdale LLP, one of 51 so-called “icebreaker partnerships” affected by Judge Colin Bishop’s decision in court on May 9. The three men are reported to have invested £26 million in the scheme.

Bishop ruled: “The underlying, and fundamental, conclusion we have reached is that the Icebreaker scheme is, and was known and understood by all concerned to be, a tax avoidance scheme.” It is reported that in some cases Icebreaker scheme partners were attempting to claim tax relief on losses of up to five times more than they invested in the partnerships.

A spokesperson for HMRC said: “We have put in place generous reliefs to support genuine business investment and our tax reliefs for the creative industries work well, enabling the UK’s world-class film, television and video production companies to compete on the global stage. But we will not tolerate abuse of the system by people trying to dodge their tax obligations.”

Take That manager Jonathan Wild was also a member of the Larkdale partnership though fellow band members Jason Orange and Robbie Williams were not. There has been no suggestion of any illegality.