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ImageA round-up of parliamentary business the week beginning 8 December:


After forgetting to mention the deficit in his conference keynote address, Ed Miliband devoted a whole speech to the subject this week. The Labour leader set out the five principles that will underpin his approach to tackling the deficit. These include the need for a credible and sensible goal for dealing with the national debt; reform of the economy; common sense spending reductions, not slash and burn; ensure that those with the broadest shoulders bear the greatest burden; and only make new commitments that are credible, costed and funded. Mr Miliband also confirmed that the party is still intent on introducing a mansion tax on the most expensive homes.
The Consumer Rights Bill has successfully passed all of it stages in the House of Lords, and will now ping pong between the Lords and the Commons until the final text is agreed and it receives royal assent. Much of the bill simply consolidates existing consumer legislation including consumer contracts for services and unfair contract terms.

You may remember that the second reading of Sarah Teather MP’s Tenancies (Reform) Bill dealing with retaliatory evictions was sabotaged and unable to be voted on. Ms Teather has managed to get amendments tabled for inclusion in the Deregulation Bill which is on its final stages in the Lords.

The Stamp Duty Land Tax Bill which reforms the way in which the tax is calculated on residential property, had its second reading debate. Financial secretary David Gauke said that the changes, which came into force on 4 December, would have a beneficial impact on the housing market and improve labour market mobility. The 

The Wales Bill, which devolves a range of tax and borrowing powers (including stamp duty) to the Welsh Assembly, completed its final parliamentary stages and now awaits royal assent.

House building and stamp duty reform were among the subjects covered during this week’s questions to the Treasury. Answering written questions, economic secretary Andrea Leadsom reiterated that the government’s approach to the implementation of the mortgage credit directive is to “minimise the impact on the UK market” and this is why government is proposing to “build on the existing UK regulatory regime…rather then copy out the directive into UK legislation”. The minister also answered a question on whether the government would take steps to help home buyers over 40 get mortgages. Ms Leadsom made clear that the FCA is responsible for the rules that protect consumers taking out a mortgage, and that regulator works independently from government.

It would appear there is a delay in taking forward the regulations which will implement the Flood Re insurance scheme. DEFRA issued a holding statement this week saying that the regulations are “complex and technical”, that they are continuing to discuss with issues with the insurance industry, and that their response to the consultation on these regulations would be published “shortly”.

The Green Deal Home Improvement Fund was opened to new applications from 10 December. Up to £30 million will be available and details of further releases will be announced on a quarterly basis with the next release expected in February 2015.
2.2 million working households in Britain with below median incomes are spending a third or more of their disposable income on housing, according to a new report published by the Resolution Foundation. Home Stretch explores how households cope with high housing costs. In respect of home ownership, the report recommends that government should expand shared ownership from a niche market to one that can meet the needs of those “who are shut out of full ownerhship.”

Meanwhile the latest issue of our parliamentary newsletter, Housing Finance at a Glance, outlines recent UK mortgage market activity; highlights our remaining concerns in respect of the European mortgage credit directive; gives information on a new project that we are undertaking with Which? to look at the transparency of mortgage costs; and considers the regulatory environment for lending into retirement.

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Michelle Vosper.