Foreign-Owned Uk Property

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 5:19 pm on 20th June 2013.

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Photo of Mark Prisk Mark Prisk The Minister for Housing 5:19 pm, 20th June 2013

I am running out of time and want to answer some of the questions asked by the right hon. Member for Bermondsey and Old Southwark, if I may.

The right hon. Gentleman raised the broader question of whether tax laws might differentiate in some ways. Property taxes such as stamp duty and land tax do not distinguish between UK and foreign nationals. That is partly because of EU laws, to which the right hon. Gentleman has alluded, but it is also partly because of significant administrative difficulties. Although he will understand that tax policy, as I am constantly reminded, is for the Treasury, I will nevertheless make sure that Treasury Ministers are aware of his suggestions and concerns.

The right hon. Gentleman also mentioned council tax differential rates, which we have discussed before. In April, having to listened to his concerns and those of others, we gave new powers to local authorities to establish an empty homes premium for long-term empty properties. Clearly, it is up to local councils how they do it, but I think that this is a power that is able to address many of the problems, perhaps in a simpler and more localised way than we thought. It is something that we will happily encourage, but as a localist Government we will not seek to impose it.

The right hon. Gentleman also mentioned foreign comparators. We certainly look at them, but we have to be careful to look not just at fiscal or planning arrangements but at the picture as a whole. Having looked at Hong Kong, I know that although it has made certain fiscal changes its difficulty is that prices are still rising.

I will respond to the right hon. Gentleman’s specific shopping list, but let me conclude by saying that I think there are perfectly understandable concerns about the potential impact of people from overseas buying homes in London. We should not, however, pretend that there are no benefits—I know that the right hon. Gentleman does not seek to do that. Inward investment has helped more homes to be built and it encourages confidence. We need a balance to be struck, but overall London benefits from being an open and diverse city, which both welcomes and, indeed, attracts investment from around the globe. I look forward to continuing this dialogue and to making sure that we continue to keep on top of what is a difficult and vexed issue that we hope to challenge.

Question put and agreed to.

House adjourned.