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ImageA round-up of parliamentary business the week beginning 19 January:


This week David Cameron launched the next stage of his party’s election manifesto with a speech focused on its plans for employment and enterprise. The prime minister has called for Britain to become a nation of “full employment”, and pledged to triple the number of start-up loans to new enterprises to 75,000.

Labour’s mansion tax plans continue to attract criticism. Ex-cabinet minister Lord Mandelson told BBC Newsnight this week that the proposed tax on properties worth more than £2 million is “crude” and “short-termist”.  He went on to say he preferred the Lib Dem idea of adding new council tax bands which while it would take longer to introduce, would be more efficient and effective. Defending his policy, shadow chancellor Ed Balls said the tax would be introduced in a careful and consulted way. He said he would "sit down with the Treasury" after the general election to go through the detail of the higher bands, which would be announced in the first Budget of a Labour government.

A report published by the Justice Select Committee has expressed concern over powers which permit Lords of the Manor to claim rights over property. The committee has recommended that the government seek legal advice on reviewing the process of manorial rights. Committee chair Sir Alan Beith commented: “The lack of understanding of such rights, and the way the registration process was carried out and communicated, has led to understandable concerns and anxieties. We have had numerous representations, both from MPs on their constituents’ behalf, and from individual members of the public affected by registrations on their properties.”

The Scottish government has made changes to the rates of its Land and Buildings Transaction Tax which will replace the UK’s Stamp Duty Land Tax in Scotland from April 2015. The changes will be subject to the approval of the Scottish Parliament and will be debated as the Scottish Budget Bill makes its way through the parliamentary process. The new rates for the tax are:

Nil up to £145,000
2% from £145,001 to £250,000
5% from £250,001 to £325,000
10% from £325,000 to £750,000
12% over £750,0001

The UK government has published draft legislation on the further powers for Scotland set out in the Smith Commission agreement. The new powers are extensive and will see the Scottish Parliament control around 60% of spending in Scotland. The new clauses are expected to form the basis of a Scotland Bill to be included in the first Queen’s speech of the next Parliament, irrespective of the composition of a future UK Government.

The Welsh government has published a white paper setting out its intention to end the right to buy and right to acquire in order to protect Wales’ social housing stock. Plans to halve the current maximum discount from £16,000 to £8,000 has also been announced.

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