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Chancellor's spring Budget silent on housing

Week in Westminster

Published: 10 March 2017 | Author: Michelle Vosper

The chancellor delivered his spring Budget statement this week. Coming hot on the heels of the housing white paper published in February, announcements relevant to the mortgage industry were few and far between. There was an announcement of a forthcoming consultation on proposals to redesign rent-a-room relief to ensure it is better targeted to support longer-term lettings.

Green paper on competition and consumer markets

The government will also shortly bring forward a green paper on competition and consumer markets to examine markets that are not working efficiently or fairly, give consumer enforcement bodies more powers, and consider how to make terms and conditions clearer and simpler.

The government's work in this area may build on the original intentions behind the Better Markets Bill announced in the 2016 Queen's speech and has yet to materialise. This bill, proposed by the old Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, was described as a means of improving competitiveness and opening up markets to empower consumers. With a particular focus on energy prices, it also included proposed measures on switching periods (including for mortgages) and consumer redress in regulated sectors.

Leasehold abuses

The government is also considering whether leasehold abuses could be included in the competition and consumer markets green paper, according to communities secretary speaking in a debate on the Budget statement.

Sir Peter Bottomley (Worthing West) (Con): “The Chancellor has announced that there is to be a Green Paper on dealing with unfair clauses and terms in consumer contracts. I do not know whether the Secretary of State has been paying attention to the difficulties that leaseholders are facing, but will he ensure that…those are taken into account, if necessary through a super-complaint, so that unfair terms can be struck out and those who exploit leaseholders can be dealt with firmly?”

Communities secretary Sajid Javid: “I commend my hon. Friend on the work that he has done on leasehold abuses. That Green Paper is being led by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, and we are considering whether leasehold abuses could be included in it.”

Northern Ireland Assembly

Last week’s Northern Ireland Assembly saw an end to the unionist majority. Sinn Fein now holds just one seat fewer than the Democratic Unionist Party. 90 MLAs were returned at this election, down from 108 in 2016, as part of plans to reduce the cost of the Assembly. Under Northern Ireland's power-sharing agreement, the executive must be jointly run by unionists and nationalists, with the largest party being invited to put forward a candidate for first minister. MLAs have three weeks to agree the formation of a new Northern Ireland Executive.