Owen Smith pledges 1.5 million new homes, and former EU financial services commissioner to lead Brexit negotiations
Week in Westminster
Published: 29 July 2016 | Author: Michelle Vosper
This week, Labour leadership contender Owen Smith made a major speech outlining 20 policy proposals. They included policies like the repeal of the Trade Union Act and the end to zero hours contracts also promoted by Jeremy Corbyn. Also included were pledges to impose a new wealth tax, end the public sector pay freeze, and spend and additional 4% on the NHS, and reverse a number of Tory tax cuts including Inheritance Tax and Capital Gains Tax.
On housing, Mr Smith pledged to build 1.5 million homes over five year - 300,000 in every year of the next parliament.
The European Commission has appointed former French government minister Michel Barnier to be its chief negotiator in the process of the UK withdrawing from the EU. Between 2010 and 2014 Mr Barnier was the internal markets EU commissioner overseeing the regulation of financial services.
During his tenure, a raft of legislation emerged from Brussels and Mr Barnier clashed regularly with the City and the British government on issues like bankers’ bonuses and capital buffer requirements. Some media have described his appointment as “an act of war”, but The Economist comments: “There are grounds for optimism over his appointment…Mr Barnier knows Britain well, thanks to his previous job….his background in financial services will be useful in negotiations over British banks’ access to the EU single market, a crucial part of the talks to come. He has a reputation as a pragmatist who understands the value of compromise over conflict.” Mr Barnier is due to take up his position on 1 October and will begin laying the ground work for the Brexit talks.
Buy-to-let mortgage lenders encouraged to offer longer-term tenancies
Answering a written question on plans to encourage buy-to-let mortgage lenders to offer longer term tenancies, housing minister Gavin Barwell replied: “My Department has worked closely with the Council of Mortgage Lenders (CML) to encourage longer term tenancies in properties with a buy to let mortgage, including during the development of our Model Tenancy Agreement (MTA). The MTA enables longer tenancies, and addresses lender concerns by including appropriate break clauses.
The CML estimates that the majority of buy to let mortgage lenders now permit tenancies of up to two to three years. We continue to encourage lenders to actively promote the use of the MTA to their landlord customers.”
Speeding up the house buying process was the subject of a couple of Lords written questions. DCLG minister Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth cited the government’s intention to consult on this subject “to determine which changes have the potential to make the greatest impact”. He said the call for evidence will be launched in “due course”.