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Week in Westminster - 21 July 2017

Week in Westminster

Published: 21 July 2017 | Author: Michelle Vosper

During the final week before Parliament closes down for the summer, Sir Vince Cable was appointed as the new leader of the Liberal Democrat Party and Brexit negotiations between the UK and EU in took centre stage with negotiations running from Monday to Thursday. However, whilst the talks continued, there was plenty happening back in Westminster before summer recess began on Thursday evening.

The practice of businesses adding a surcharge to payments made by credit cards will come to an end from January next year. This was announced in the Government’s response to a consultation on the revised EU Payment Services Directive. The Government also published the Payment Services Regulations introducing a new regulatory regime for FinTech firms from January 2018. These changes stem from the EU’s second Payment Services Directive.

The Financial Guidance and Claims Bill commenced to Committee stage in the House of Lords on Wednesday led by Baroness Buscombe, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for DWP. All tabled amendments on the Bill were withdrawn following discussion. The Bill’s Committee stage resumes in the Lords on 6th, 11th and 13th of September.

David Gauke, Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, also gave a Ministerial statement to the House in which he announced the state pension age will rise to 68 in 2037 – seven years earlier than previously expected.

The Treasury has published a consultation on the impact and drafting of regulations intended to improve oversight of the anti-money laundering supervisory regime.

Sanctions policy and the impact of Brexit took a great deal of Parliamentary time across both Houses, with a General Debate on the issue in the House of Commons on Wednesday afternoon, and the House of Lords EU External Affairs Sub Committee taking it first oral evidence on Thursday for its sanctions policy inquiry. UKF this week submitted written evidence to this inquiry and may be invited to give oral evidence when Parliament returns in September. 

The House of Lords European Union Committee this week published two Brexit related reports that were subject to debate including a report on the EU data protection package in respect of Brexit. The report will have a bearing on any domestic legislative proposals and pave the way for the UK’s post-Brexit data protection regime.

Finally on Brexit, Leader of the House Andrea Leadsom included in her Business Statement that MPs will vote on the Repeal Bill Second Reading on Monday 11th September, following two days of debate, starting on Thursday 7th September. 

Housing and mortgages

There have been media reports this week suggesting that the Communities Secretary is considering introducing a requirement on local authorities to take the affordability of local homes into account when deciding how many new houses are needed in their area. It is hoped that a greater supply of home in more expensive local markets would help to bring down house prices.

Government announcements

In a written statement the Prime Minister confirmed that, with immediate effect, responsibility for home buying policy and estate agent regulation, will transfer from the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy to the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG). Similarly responsibility for commonhold law which currently resides with the Ministry of Justice, will also transfer to the DCLG.

There have been a number of announcements this week on plans to deliver High Speed 2. Most important for mortgage lenders is HS2’s response to the Phase 2b (the Manchester and Leeds routes) property compensation schemes consultation. The same compensation package will be introduced for phase 2b as for previous phases. The Government has also decided to:

  • Review flexibility of the No Prior Knowledge criterion under the need to sell scheme.
  • Consider whether those that take a cash offer could also be eligible for voluntary purchase at a later date.
  • Re-examine the benefits of a property bond scheme.

The Welsh Government has launched a consultation on legislative proposals to ban letting agency fees charged to tenants in the private rented sector. The consultation is the first step towards fulfilling the Welsh Government’s commitment to bring forward the Fees Charged to Tenants Bill to address this issue.

In Parliament

As noted above, Peers debated the Financial Guidance and Claims Bill [HL] during its first Lords’ committee session. The Bill will establish a new statutory body responsible for co-ordinating the provision of debt advice, money guidance and pension guidance. Lord Sharkey introduced a group of amendments which were all associated with introducing a form of “breathing space” to help those seeking to resolve financial difficulties by halting additional interest and charges, collections and enforcement action. The Government stressed the need for careful consideration and consultation on eligibility for this type of scheme. When asked to suggest alternative legislation that could incorporate such a scheme, the Minister Baroness Buscombe was unable to do so. The amendments were subsequently withdrawn.

The subject of leasehold reform continues to attract a range of parliamentary attention. Both Jim Fitzpatrick MP and Justin Madders MP raised the subject during the summer adjournment debate. Mr Madders suggested in addition to developers, lenders, solicitors and Government should “take some share of the blame” for the leasehold issues that have arisen.

In addition, this week the joint chars of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Leasehold and Commonhold Reform tabled an Early Day Motion welcoming the Government’s intention to address abuses of the leasehold system, and commits to work with all interested parties to ensure change happens. To date the EDM has seven signatories.

“A rise in interest rates would not be expected to significantly increase the number of mortgage repossession”, according to the Economic Secretary Stephen Barclay. He was answering a question from his opposite number in the Labour Party Jonathan Reynolds. This chimes with a UK Finance article published this week discussing whether mortgage borrowers are prepared for rising interest rates.

In answer to a question form Labour MP Jessica Morden, Local Government Minister Marcus Jones confirmed that building a sustainable funding model for supported housing was a priority and that further details would be set out in the autumn.

Labour MP Kate Green was interested in the new loans-based system of support for mortgage interest which will replace the current benefits-based system from 6 April 2018. Work and Pensions Minister Caroline Dinenage said that claimants will be offered interest-bearing loans that give the same level of protection again repossession as the current provision. The loans will be secured against their property and repaid from available equity when the property i