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Week in Westminster - 15 September 2017

Week in Westminster

Published: 15 September 2017 | Author: Michelle Vosper

Once again Brexit loomed large this week. After much speculation, MPs voted to back the European (Withdrawal) Bill at Second Reading. And speaking at the UK Finance annual dinner, the Chancellor indicated that the Government is seeking a “bespoke” deal for the City of London after Brexit.

Peers continued their scrutiny of the Financial Guidance and Claims Bill. While the biggest shake up of the data protection laws in twenty years was published in the form of the Data Protection Bill.

The membership of each of the Commons select committees has now been finalised, and the Autumn Budget announced for 22 November 2017.

After a short two-week sitting, Parliament breaks again for conference season. First up is the Liberal Democrats starting this weekend.

Brexit

The European Union (Withdrawal) Bill received its Second Reading in the House of Commons. At the end of a two-day debate, MPs voted by 326 votes to 290 votes to back the Bill. The Bill will now proceed to Committee Stage on a date to be decided, and will be considered by Committee of the whole House. Ministers have allowed eight days for MPs to debate detailed amendments.

In a speech at the UK Finance annual dinner, Chancellor Philip Hammond said the UK will not water down rules to protect its financial services sector in the wake of Brexit. Mr Hammond contended that the UK’s financial sector needed a bespoke deal, noting that the Government will “seek a new paradigm for our future trading relationship in financial services”.

The Chancellor also spoke about Brexit and transitional arrangements during a meeting with the Lords Economic Affairs Committee.

The next round of Brexit talks has been postponed by a week to "allow more time for consultation", and the Prime Minister will now give a major speech on Brexit in Florence on 22 September. The fourth round of UK-EU negotiations, due to begin on 18 September, will start on 25 September 2017 instead.

Other legislation

The Financial Guidance and Claims Bill continued its Committee Stage this week. During two days of deliberation, peers moved probing amendments on the statutory reporting of guidance, the creation of a commissioning framework, and the impact of Financial Conduct Authority regulation on the new body. They also discussed amendments which would place a duty of care on claims management services to all customers, not solely those identified as vulnerable. The Government confirmed its intention to consult on this.

The Data Protection Bill has been introduce into the House of Lords. The Bill’s Second Reading debate is scheduled for the 10 October 2017.

The Treasury has published policy papers on a range of tax issues as part of the supporting documents for the Finance Bill 2017-2018. This includes changes to the scope and administration of the Bank Levy.

Housing

The DCLG has launched a consultation on new proposals for assessing local housing need first muted in the Housing White Paper. In a statement to the House, Housing Minister Alok Sharma explained the Government will use household growth projections published by the Office for National Statistics to establish how many new homes are needed to meet rising demand. The aim is to increase the required number of homes in less affordable areas – any area where average house prices are more than four times average earnings, the number of homes planned will be increased. A 40% cap will be set on the level of that increase.

Ground rents should be banned, commonhold made compulsory on new developments, and a lower rate of stamp duty offered on commonhold units - these were some of the messages coming from a meeting of the Leasehold and Commonhold Reform All-Party Parliamentary Group this week. The meeting, attended by the Housing Minister, focussed on reform of the commonhold system introduced in 2002.

An estimated 124,000 existing support for mortgage interest benefit recipients will be affected by the introduction of a new loans-based system of support for mortgage borrowers from 6 April 2018, according to Department for Work and Pensions minister Caroline Dinenage answering a written question on the subject.

According to a National Audit Office report published this week, 360 households across England were recorded as homeless following repossession. This number has been falling since 1989-99, when 5,850 households were recorded. The report therefore focusses on analysis on local housing markets for tenants as opposed to owner occupiers.

Devolved administrations

In Scotland, Conservative MSP Adam Tomkins introduced a debate calling on the Scottish Government to elevate housing to the top of their agenda; appoint a cabinet secretary for housing and infrastructure; establish a housing infrastructure agency; and look at the case for a new generation of new town. Responding, Cabinet Secretary for Communities, Social Security and Equalities Angela Constance said the Scottish Government is determined to increase and accelerate housing supply in all tenures. While she voiced her support for new towns, Ms Constance said it is not the Government’s role to impose new towns on communities, but to provide the framework to allow the right developments in the right place.

The Welsh Government has published a summary of consultation responses received in respect of its consultation on the regulatory reform of registered social landlords. The Government has also published its response to the report of the Public Accounts Committee inquiry into the regulatory oversight of housing associations in Wales.