Clause 87 - Temporary Period For Reduced Rates On Residential Property

Finance (No. 2) Bill – in the House of Commons at 4:15 pm on 20th April 2021.

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Photo of Abena Oppong-Asare Abena Oppong-Asare Shadow Exchequer Secretary (Treasury) 4:15 pm, 20th April 2021

I beg to move amendment 81, in page 49, leave out lines 14 to 27.

This amendment would mean that the Stamp Duty Land Tax (Temporary Relief) Act 2020 no longer applies to additional dwellings.

Photo of Siobhain McDonagh Siobhain McDonagh Labour, Mitcham and Morden

With this it will be convenient to discuss the following:

Clauses 87 to 89 stand part.

That schedules 16 and 17 be the Sixteenth and Seventeenth schedules to the Bill.

Clauses 90 and 91 stand part.

New clause 26—Equality impact analysis (No. 2)—

“(1) The Chancellor of the Exchequer must review the equality impact of sections 87 to 89 and schedule 16 and 17 of this Act and lay a report of that review before the House of Commons within six months of the passing of this Act.

(2) A review under this section must consider the impact of those sections on—

(a) households at different levels of income,

(b) people with protected characteristics (within the meaning of the Equality Act 2010),

(c) the Treasury’s compliance with the public sector equality duty under section 149 of the Equality Act 2010, and

(d) equality in England, Northern Ireland and in different regions of England.

(3) A review under this section must provide a separate analysis in relation to each of the following matters—

(a) the temporary period for reduced rates on residential property,

(b) increased rates for non-resident transactions, and

(c) relief from higher rate charge for certain housing co-operatives etc.

(4) In this section “regions of England” has the same meaning as that used by the Office for National Statistics.”

This new clause requires the Chancellor of the Exchequer to carry out and publish a review of the effects of sections 87 to 89 and schedules 16 and 17 of the Bill on equality in relation to households with different levels of income, people with protected characteristics, the Treasury’s public sector equality duty and on a geographical basis.

New clause 27—Fiscal and economic impact of 2% non- resident surcharge—

“(1) The Chancellor of the Exchequer must review the impact of section 88 and schedule 16 and lay a report of that review before the House of Commons within six months of the passing of this Act and once a year thereafter.

(2) A review under this section must estimate the expected impact of section 88 and schedule 16 on—

(a) Stamp Duty Land Tax revenue at the increased rates of 2%, and what the revenue impact would have been if the rate had been 3%,

(b) residential property prices, and

(c) affordability of residential property.”

This new clause would require the Government to report on the effect of the 2% stamp duty land tax non-resident surcharge on tax revenues and on the price and affordability of property.

Photo of Abena Oppong-Asare Abena Oppong-Asare Shadow Exchequer Secretary (Treasury)

It is a pleasure to speak for the Opposition on this group of amendments and new clauses relating to stamp duty. I rise to speak on those in my name and those of my right hon. and hon. Friends.

Amendment 81 will prevent the extension of stamp duty holiday from being used for second homes, buy-to-lets and investment properties. New clause 26 would require the Government to review the equalities impact of this group of clauses, including their impact on households with different income levels and on people with protected characteristics, their compliance with the public sector equality duty and their impact on the different regions and nations of the United Kingdom. New clause 27 would require the Government to review the impact of a non-residential surcharge of 2%, which it is set at in the Bill, and 3%, which, as I shall come on to, the Conservative party previously committed to.

Before I come on to the amendments in more detail, let me say a little about the stamp duty holiday extension. Clause 87 extends the £500,000 nil rate band until 30 June. From July until the end of September, the nil rate band will be £250,000, double its normal level; it will return to the usual level of £125,000 from 1 October. It is estimated that the total cost of this extension will be £1.5 billion by the end of 2021-22. That is on top of the £3.2 billion cost of the initial stamp duty land tax holiday announced in July 2020.

The extension will of course be welcome news for those people in the process of buying a new home who face a cliff edge at the end of March. We know that many people have struggled to complete purchases in time due to the coronavirus restrictions and the significant backlog of pending transactions. In previous debates, Members raised issues of cyber-attacks on council services in Hackney that impacted the planning department and delayed people’s securing mortgages.

However, we have concerns about the broader effects of the policy. Our new clause 26 is intended to encourage the Government to be honest about the impact of the stamp duty holiday on the housing market. The Resolution Foundation says that the lower stamp duty liabilities have contributed to house price rises over the last eight months. House prices in England grew 7% between July and December 2020, which is highly unusual behaviour during a recession. In many cases, the rise in house prices over the period will have cancelled out the benefit of the stamp duty holiday. As the Institute for Fiscal Studies, the Resolution Foundation and others have pointed out, the stamp duty holiday has also had the perverse effect of temporarily removing the advantage that first-time buyers had in the market compared with existing homeowners. This, coupled with rapidly rising house prices, has meant that many first-time buyers continue to be priced out of the market. The Bill does nothing to address the housing crisis that affects millions of families across the country—yet again, a wasted opportunity from this Government.

I turn now to clause 88 and our amendment 81. It is unbelievable that, at the same time as the Chancellor is pressing ahead with a £2 billion council tax rise, he has given another tax break to second-home owners and buy-to-let landlords. This half a billion pound tax break for second-home owners and landlords is the wrong priority in the middle of an economic crisis that is hitting family incomes. Instead, this money could have been used to build nearly 3,000 socially rented homes, which is half the total built in England last year. In Wales, the equivalent tax relief has not been extended to property acquired as investment or as a second home. Labour’s amendment 81 would ensure that the extended stamp duty holiday in England and Northern Ireland followed that approach. I turn to the non-residential surcharge introduced under clause 88. During the 2019 general election campaign, the Chancellor, who was then Chief Secretary to the Treasury, said:

“Evidence shows that by adding significant amounts of demand to limited housing supply, purchases by non-residents inflate house prices.”

He went on to announce a Conservative manifesto commitment to introduce a non-resident stamp duty surcharge of 3%, which would have been spent on programmes aimed at tackling rough sleeping. But clause 88 introduces a non-resident surcharge of 2%, rather than 3%. As yet, we have had no explanation from the Government as to why they have watered down that commitment. We estimate that this means the Government could miss out on £52 million a year in revenue that should have been spent on tackling homelessness and rough sleeping.

Our new clause 27 would require the Government to review the difference between the 2% charge and the 3% charge and to reveal the lost income as a result of that decision. When the Minister stands up, perhaps he will tell us why the Government have moved from 3% to 2%.

We welcome clauses 89 to 91, which provide relief from the annual tax on enveloped dwellings and the 15% stamp duty charge for the ownership and transfer of property by housing co-operatives that do not have transferable share capital. The Treasury has listened to the co-operative housing sector on the issue and that is welcome.

To conclude, we do not believe that the Government’s clauses in this group would do anything to solve the housing crisis we face in this country. Year after year, Government have failed to build the homes we need, especially social and affordable homes. The Government are on track to miss their target of building 300,000 homes by almost a decade. The number of new social rented homes has fallen by over 80% since 2010 and home ownership is down sharply among young people, with 800,000 fewer households under 45 owning their home than in 2010. Without urgent action the housing crisis in the UK will deepen. Instead the Government have decided to give a tax break to landlords and failed to meet their own commitment on the non-residential surcharge. Our amendments will remedy these wrongs.

Photo of Jesse Norman Jesse Norman The Financial Secretary to the Treasury

Last spring, we were only just beginning to understand as a nation what the full impact of the coronavirus might mean for us. We were told to stay at home and, for many people, that meant postponing plans that they might have made to move, creating considerable uncertainty. It was evident that the housing market was affected by that and it was made much worse when, on 26 March, buying and selling a property was largely put on hold. While business was enabled to resume from 13 May, there was concern about what the pandemic would mean for the market and for the jobs that rely on the sector.

The Chancellor announced that he would support the housing market through the stamp duty land tax holiday, quadrupling the starting threshold for SDLT to £500,000. That was designed to give a boost—indeed, the boost to the housing market that it needed to thrive through the pandemic. It has thrived: transactions in the last quarter of 2020 were 16% higher than in the same period in 2019. In other words, the SDLT holiday has given hundreds of thousands of families the confidence to buy and to sell their homes at a particularly difficult time. In turn, it has supported the livelihoods of people—tens of thousands of them, or more than that—whose businesses and jobs rely on trade with, through and from the housing market.

Towards the end of last year, it became apparent that the housing industry was struggling to meet the additional demand to move home and that there were delays in processing transactions. That meant that some of those moving home would not be able to complete the transactions that they had entered into until after the holiday ended, through no fault of their own. The Bill therefore extends the stamp duty land tax holiday in order to allow those buyers still to receive the relief. In addition, the nil rate band will be £250,000, double its standard level, until the end of September, in order to allow the market to return smoothly to its normal rates.

The Bill also introduces a non-residential SDLT surcharge. The surcharge will apply to property purchases by non-UK residents who do not come to live and work here, helping to ease house price inflation and to keep housing free for UK residents to buy. Revenue raised from the surcharge will be used to help address the issue of rough sleeping.

Abena Oppong-Asare raised the question about the non-resident surcharge. She may not be aware that, at Budget 2018, the Government announced that a consultation for a 1% non-UK resident surcharge would be published. Following the announcement of the surcharge, HMRC and the Treasury carried out a public consultation in spring 2019. That included questions on whether a 1% rate was set at the right level to balance the Government’s objectives on home ownership with those of the UK remaining an open and dynamic economy. Having listened to stakeholders, the Government believe that the 2% surcharge—twice the original amount contemplated—strikes the right balance in this area. That is the basis on which the surcharge has been set.

The Bill will also relieve the 15% rate of SDLT and the annual tax for enveloped dwellings for qualifying housing co-operatives. That change ensures that these measures are fairly targeted at companies that use so-called envelopes in order to avoid tax on their properties.

Amendment 81 would disapply the SDLT holiday to purchases of additional dwellings. As the Committee will know, the SDLT holiday was intended to give a boost to the entire property market, of which developers and landlords are important parts. Although those buying second homes or buy-to-let properties will benefit from that tax change, they will continue to pay an additional 3% on top of the standard SDLT rates.

The Government have maintained the relative advantage that buyers of main homes had before the tax change. For example, the purchaser of a second home worth £500,000 will still pay £15,000 in SDLT, compared with nothing for the purchase of a main residence. It was a Conservative Government who introduced the phasing out of finance cost relief, and the higher rates of SDLT for the purchase of additional property—all steps towards a more balanced tax treatment between homeowners and landlords.

On new clause 26, HMRC routinely publishes information about SDLT, collected by house price bands and by region. Of course, a full tax impact assessment, including equalities impacts, has been published for each measure.

Extending the SDLT holiday ensures that buyers who were affected by delays in the industry will still be able to receive the tax relief.

In the longer term, the Bill introduces a new surcharge that will help more people on to the housing ladder through the new non-UK residents’ surcharge. It also ensures that stamp duty and the annual tax on enveloped dwellings remain fair by making certain that only those who the Government intend to pay corporate rates of tax are captured.

Photo of Richard Thomson Richard Thomson Shadow SNP Deputy Spokesperson (Treasury - Financial Secretary), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Wales), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Northern Ireland) 4:45 pm, 20th April 2021

I am happy to speak in support of clauses 80 to 91 and also new clauses 26 and 27.

Some of the measures in this cluster of schedules and clauses do not apply to Scotland, where the land buildings transaction tax applies instead following the devolution of the stamp duty land tax. That said, I am sure that the extension of the temporary increase to the stamp duty land tax holiday with no rate band for residential property in England and Northern Ireland that will be given effect by clause 87 will be very much welcomed by those who stand to benefit from it. The increased rates for non-resident purchasers given effect by clause 88 and schedule 16 is something that is long overdue. I am also happy to support the relief from annual tax on enveloped dwellings for certain kinds of properties given effect by clauses 89 to 90 alongside schedule 17, as well as the provisions being made under clause 91 for repayment to co-operatives that are also eligible.

I encourage Ministers to look positively on the reforms of property taxation that have taken place in Scotland since stamp duty was devolved. LBTT replaced stamp duty on 1 April 2015. It is very much a progressive tax in that the rates increase more than proportionately in line with the price of the property to which it has been applied. That has a very valuable role in the housing market with regard to easing house price inflation and, at the same time, exempting nearly 80% of first-time buyers from paying any kind of property tax on their first purchase of a home. My party is committed to maintaining current rates and bands within that tax regime while undertaking a review of the effectiveness of the additional allowance supplement that has also been put in place. It is in that spirit of constant review that we find much to welcome in new clauses 26 and 27, which we consider will merit the support of the Committee.

Photo of Gareth Bacon Gareth Bacon Conservative, Orpington

As the Committee is aware, this year’s Finance Bill is presented at an unprecedented time in British peacetime history. The pandemic has hit the economy very hard, and the Government have not stood idly by over the past year. Extensive levels of economic interventions have been introduced to protect jobs, businesses and our people in order to help them through this pandemic. The impact of this on the state of the public finances has been drastic, with the budget deficit rising to £355 million in 2020-21 and our national debt rising to £2 trillion.

That is of course not a sustainable position, but, as we know, the tide is turning. The Government’s excellent vaccine planning, procurement and roll-out means that we can now see the end in sight. The economy and society have begun to open up, but we are not there yet. The Budget introduced by my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer in March therefore had to achieve a very delicate balance in maintaining high levels of economic support during the continuing global health crisis while also laying the groundwork to repair the public finances and support our economic recovery.

The part of our economy that is the housing market comes in both property sales and construction. I will address my remarks primarily to the decision to extend the temporary stamp duty land tax holiday. As my right hon. Friend the Minister said, when the pandemic struck and the first lockdown began in March last year, the housing market experienced a sharp decline in sales, falling by 43% in the second quarter of the financial year compared with the same period of the previous year. Historically, a sharp drop in transactions, if left unchecked, has led to a fall in the level of house building. The Government’s action in introducing revised thresholds at the lower end of the market, abolishing stamp duty on the first £500,000 of the purchase price and setting the level at 5% for the next £425,000, has greatly alleviated the problem. In my constituency of Orpington, the average house price is currently £528,000, and the Government’s intervention has reduced the level of stamp duty on an average transaction by 91%, leading directly to a strong recovery in the local housing market.

That recovery is also reflected in the picture nationally. According to HMRC figures, in the third quarter of the most recent financial year, housing sales increased exponentially on the previous quarter, and in the fourth quarter transactions were at their highest level since 2007. In the short term, that is extremely welcome because the Government have achieved their objective of stabilising the housing market and maintaining confidence in the construction market. By introducing an extension of the initial stamp duty holiday, followed by a tapering of relief, the Government have taken steps both to remove the danger of a cliff edge that could have reversed all the good work done in the latter half of last year and to prevent an unsustainable long-term boom in house prices. I believe that is the right approach at this juncture.

In the longer term, though, I urge the Government to take a long, hard look at the structure of stamp duty. Stamp duty thresholds have not kept pace with the rise in house prices, meaning that stamp duty has become a significant barrier to purchasing. That is particularly true in places such as Orpington, and even more so in other areas of south-east England in particular, where housing shortages are most acute. In the light of the strong link between house construction and housing transactions, coupled with the Government’s desire to ramp up house building and level up the country, a review of the wider stamp duty regime would bear consideration. However, that is an argument for another day, once the battle with the pandemic is finally won.

For the moment, I believe that the extension of the stamp duty until the end of June is the right move, and its tapering from the end of June until October is both proportionate and unwelcome. I will support the Government on the issue this evening.

Photo of Geraint Davies Geraint Davies Labour, Swansea West

The stamp duty holiday tells us all we need to know about the Government’s priorities. Amid an awful pandemic that has seen the highest death rates in the world, when something like 4 million people have been infected and many of them will face long covid, and when something like 7.6 million people are in hunger, we need investment in the wider economy to get us moving again. In fact, with the stamp duty holiday the Government have spent much of £5 billion, over two years, on second homes. That £5 billion could have paid for 5% increases in nurses’ salaries over 15 years, given that a 5% increase would cost £330 million after allowing for the recovery of the tax on the money given in the first place.

In any case, it is not clear that the stamp duty holiday was at all necessary to stabilise the housing market, because immediately as the pandemic began to hit, the Bank of England reduced interests rates and in so doing reduced mortgage costs, supported prices and increased landlords’ margins at a time when tenants were still required to pay their rents. Given that the Bank of England had already taken action to support the market, the stamp duty holiday simply increased house prices by something like 7% between July and December 2020. That is not the right priority, and it is certainly not the right priority to invest money in second homes for people who are basically making money out of that investment from taxpayers and boosting the prices that first-time buyers face. That is why in Wales, where we have a Labour Government, second homes were not included in the stamp duty holiday, which was quite right. I therefore support amendment 81. Indeed, in Wales, we have made provision so that there are no rough sleepers during this pandemic, whereas in England, of course, there are.

The stamp duty holiday will mean that first-time buyers will find it more difficult to buy a house because deposits will need to be bigger. We are moving to a situation in which young people who want to buy a house will almost always have to depend on their parents to do so, so the distribution of the opportunity to buy a house in Britain is getting worse and worse.

In a nutshell, this Budget should have invested in all our opportunities to raise productivity, increase the number of jobs, focus on the future and keep people healthy. Instead, it has been seen as an opportunity to focus on widening inequality unnecessarily. I very much support the Labour party’s amendments.

Photo of Felicity Buchan Felicity Buchan Conservative, Kensington

I speak in support of the Bill and against the amendment. The stamp duty holiday has been an unequivocal success in stimulating the market, and I welcome its extension. Many of my constituents will also welcome the surcharge for non-UK residents. In my constituency, many foreign investors buy flats and houses as financial investments, and often these lie empty; in effect, they are bank balances in the sky. This has real implications for my constituency. It leads to hollowed-out communities, and it makes it very difficult for shops, restaurants and businesses to be viable.

I welcome this Government’s focus on house building. Last year, we built 243,000 houses. That is the most in 33 years. For so many of my constituents, buying a house is almost an unobtainable dream. We need to build more houses, and we need to build more affordable housing. That is especially the case in London, where the Labour Mayor’s record of building housing has been lamentable. In 2016, he was given a budget of £4.62 billion to build 116,000 houses. How many had he done by December? Only 56,000—less than half. It is lamentable.

I also welcome the Government’s new measures on guaranteeing mortgages up to 95%. Again, this will help my young constituents and key workers to get on to the housing ladder. In my borough of Kensington and Chelsea, we have so many private renters. Some 44% of my constituents are private renters, because people cannot afford to get on to the housing ladder. Rent is a huge proportion of my constituents’ incomes. Rent is 26% of the median average income nationally. In my constituency, it is a whopping 75%, so I welcome all the support to get young people in my constituency on to the housing ladder.

I support the measures in the Bill, but like my hon. Friend Gareth Bacon, I encourage Government to be more radical when it comes to stamp duty and to make a fundamental reform. Stamp duty is essentially a tax on social mobility. It prevents people from moving closer to new work opportunities. It prevents young and growing families from moving from one to two-bedroom flats to bigger family houses. It prevents older people from downsizing.

In my constituency, it has led to very perverse consequences. People cannot afford to move, so they start extending their houses. That has led to an onslaught of basement developments. One house in my street went down an extra three storeys below the lower ground floor. That has now been banned by my council, but this causes undue distress to my constituents and intolerable noise and disruption that goes on for prolonged periods. We have to make it easier for people to move.

I would go back to the changes made to stamp duty in 2014, in the autumn statement. It was commendable that we got rid of the slab approach, but we made a mistake on the higher levels of stamp duty, because they are punitive. The average house price in my constituency is £1.25 million. The stamp duty payable, when we do not have the holiday up to £500,000, is £68,750. That is just unaffordable. Average earnings in my constituency are 40% higher than the national average, but property prices are 415% higher, and my constituents simply cannot afford this level of stamp duty. People may well say that this is a specific issue to a few constituencies in central London and ask why this matters to the rest of the country, but I can assure them that it does matter. Transactions over £1 million amounted to only 2.5% of the transactions, but in value they equated to 32% of the transactions. So if we see less activity in the top end of the market, it is bad for the Exchequer, and we have seen that reduction in activity over the past five years, since the 2014 changes. In my constituency, the volume of transactions at the top end is down by 33% and in value they are down by 25%. So this tax is the wrong side of the Laffer curve. In summary, I welcome the Bill and the changes in it, but I ask the Government to go further.

Photo of Christine Jardine Christine Jardine Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (International Trade), Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Exiting the European Union), Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Treasury)

Thank you, Chair. Apologies, I do not know what happened just then, but it is now a pleasure to take part in this debate.

I will be supporting amendment 81, as will the Liberal Democrats, which would ensure that the stamp duty land tax holiday no longer applies to the purchase of second homes. I will keep my remarks short, in the light of the earlier mishap. Suffice it to say that we believe that the SDLT holiday is not effective in helping first-time buyers on to the housing market. Giving a tax break to people who have already saved money for their property and can already afford a mortgage does not entirely solve the problem. Extending the SDLT holiday would serve only to avoid a cliff edge, depriving the Treasury of much-needed funds at a time when there are many extremely pressing calls on our public finances. Combined with the new lower deposit mortgage scheme launched in the Budget, its only effect is to increase demand for housing without increasing the supply of homes. For me, and for the Liberal Democrats, that is crucial. Members can see where I am going with this: we need to increase the supply of homes.

The Government need to take steps to increase the number of homes being built. They first must make and then keep to their targets, support local authorities that want to build new homes and enforce affordable homes targets. That must include building 100,000 new social homes a year. The Liberal Democrats have proposed a new rent to buy scheme, where people can build up shares in housing association homes through their rent. I ask the Government to examine the merits of that proposal. These steps would be more effective in getting people on to the housing ladder. Therefore, I ask that the amendment be supported and I ask the Government to consider the rent to buy scheme as a way of realistically helping people on to the housing ladder without increasing demand for housing that is not there.

Photo of Anthony Browne Anthony Browne Conservative, South Cambridgeshire

I very much welcome many of the measures in the Finance Bill, particularly the measures on stamp duty. Like many people who called for a stamp duty holiday, I welcomed it when the Government announced it and I am glad to see that it has been one of the most successful stimuli to economic activity that the country has seen. The moribund market is now racing ahead, albeit possibly slightly too fast. I recognise that homeowners need certainty—many of them are in the middle of transactions —so this is good. We are not out of the pandemic yet, so I welcome the Government’s move to extend the stamp duty holiday to the end of June. I also welcome the fact that they are removing the steep cliff edge and replacing it with a smaller cliff edge by tapering it out and extending it at a lower rate until the end of October. Those are both good measures that will keep the housing market going and give certainty to homeowners.

I do not support amendment 81, which proposes that these measures should not apply to second homes, although I understand the social justice argument behind it. The purpose of the stamp duty holiday is to stimulate economic activity, and whether a home is being bought to live in or as an investment property, that still involves economic activity in the housing market. Our focus here is on stimulating the market, and both those activities have equal effect.

Back in 2012, I co-founded an organisation called the HomeOwners Alliance, Britain’s first and only consumer group for homeowners. Our aim was to champion homeowners and aspiring homeowners and to help people to get into the housing market, recognising that home ownership is a valid aspiration for all young people, and indeed older people, and that the primary role of homes is to be lived in. They are not investments or casinos; they are to be lived in, and that should be the role of Government policy.

I wrote various papers on the reform of stamp duty. I will not go on about the details, but there were two particular reforms that I called for. One was an increase in the stamp duty on second homes, investment properties and buy-to-lets. The other was an increase in the stamp duty for non-residential buyers. The Government have already introduced the first of those, and I think they have raised almost as much money from that as they do from residential stamp duty. Now, in this Bill, they are introducing the stamp duty surcharge for non-residential buyers—the people who want to buy homes in this country but who have no intention of living in them. As a country, we have been very generous to such people—far more generous than most other countries—but, as my hon. Friend Felicity Buchan said, this has a real cost in terms of preventing other people from buying a home that they actually want to live in.

It is very welcome that the Government are introducing the 2% surcharge for non-residential buyers who do not want to live in the UK. It is right that it should start low—2% is quite low; that is often the fee that we pay to the estate agent—but the Government should monitor it. There will be an opportunity to increase that rate, while ensuring that doing so does not have really bad effects on the market but that it does have an effect on demand and helps to free up properties for people who want to buy a home to live in. The money from these measures is being used to house rough sleepers, which is very welcome, but in the longer term as we raise the rate and more money is brought in, I would use that revenue to reduce the burden of stamp duty for those buying homes that they want to live in. As my hon. Friend the Member for Kensington so eloquently said, stamp duty is a big burden for homeowners. Following those thoughts for the future, I will be fully supporting the Government’s policies.

Photo of Ben Everitt Ben Everitt Conservative, Milton Keynes North

It is a pleasure to speak on this part of the Finance Bill, and I want to start by saying thank you to the Treasury for listening to people’s suggestions relating to the stamp duty land tax holiday and for listening to the voice of the industry, which called for this extension. The original decision at the start of the pandemic to provide that stamp duty holiday was brilliant. It worked. It was the right measure at the right time, and it stimulated our economy and resulted in an almost 33% increase in the amount of home moves. It kept the whole show on the road. Now, as my hon. Friends have mentioned, the decision to extend it will remove the cliff edge that we could have faced when it went away, along with the tapering of other support packages.

These are sensitive times, and there are fiscal measures in place that are carefully balanced to stimulate growth, support people, jobs and businesses, and project confidence to the markets so that we can credibly borrow all this money to invest in our covid response, but this stamp duty holiday cannot go on for ever; it is after all, a revenue-negative intervention from the Treasury, despite the wider economic stimuli that it creates for the painters, movers, builders, white goods salesmen and so on.

So what do we do with a problem such as SDLT? I do not believe that it is simply a case, as some might say, of replacing one tax with another. We do too much shuffling and tinkering with our taxation system and our housing market. As a result, our taxation system is fiendishly complicated. However, this is our opportunity for radical reform, and this clause proves it. We need to look at the role of property values in locally raised revenue. We need to include our commitments on net zero and levelling up, as well as the target of building 300,000 houses a year.

Other interventions, such as the freeport scheme, can provide an excellent place to start. Let us put that idea on steroids. Let us have special economic zones to deliver levelling up and green homes, and sustainable investment in businesses, jobs and homes and the infrastructure that goes with them. With levers such as the super deduction combining with our global Britain approach, we can reach out to the world to get more foreign direct investment, more onshoring of manufacturing and more global brands relocating to those areas that we will level up.

The property tax element is fundamental here because it relates to the homes that people live in—the people who will do the jobs that will benefit from this investment and whom we will support through the levelling-up agenda. To put it simply, we cannot do levelling up without fixing the housing market, and the way we tax it, and what we disincentivise and incentivise as a result of that taxation, are a great place to start. I therefore fully support this clause.

Photo of Jesse Norman Jesse Norman The Financial Secretary to the Treasury

I do not think I will ever give a more popular speech than the one I am going to give now, because I just want to thank everyone who has made comments. I thank Abena Oppong-Asare for her remarks, which I have already answered. I thank colleagues for the speeches they have made to explore the effects, purpose and potential limits, even, of the stamp duty land tax and the holiday. I ask Members to support the clauses, and I will sit down.

Photo of Abena Oppong-Asare Abena Oppong-Asare Shadow Exchequer Secretary (Treasury)

This has been a good debate, and I too thank Members on both sides of the House for their contributions. Members on both sides have spoken on behalf of their constituents about the impact of the stamp duty holiday, the challenges of buying a home and the need for more action to make affordable housing a reality.

As I said in my opening contribution, the Opposition simply do not believe that the Government should be handing a half a billion pound tax break to buy-to-let investors and second home buyers. Once again, this is the wrong priority from a Government who are letting families down. Labour’s amendment 81 would end that unfairness, and I want to press it to a vote.

Question put, That the amendment be made.

Division number 268 Finance (No. 2) Bill — Clause 87 - Temporary Period For Reduced Rates On Residential Property

Aye: 212 MPs

No: 364 MPs

Ayes: A-Z by last name

Tellers

Nos: A-Z by last name

Tellers

The House divided: Ayes 214, Noes 364.

Question accordingly negatived.

The list of Members currently certified as eligible for a proxy vote, and of the Members nominated as their proxy, is published at the end of today's debates.

Clause 87 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clauses 88 and 89 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Schedules 16 and 17 agreed to.

Clauses 90 and 91 ordered to stand part of the Bill.