Stamp Duty Land Tax (Temporary Relief) Bill DebateFull Debate: Read Full Debate
Anthony BrowneMain Page: Anthony Browne (Conservative - South Cambridgeshire)
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Legislation Debates - View all Anthony Browne's contributions to the Stamp Duty Land Tax (Temporary Relief) Act 2020
The Minister is absolutely right, and I will come to that.
The Conservative Government have improved the system of stamp duty significantly. It used to be a ridiculous slab tax that created distortions all the way through the market, but we made it into a slice tax—perhaps a slam tax—that gets very expensive at the higher levels and deters activity at the top end.
On the Minister’s point about where on earth we are going to get the money from, the reality is that this nation will come under huge tax pressure over the next few decades, not just the next few years. According to the Office for Budget Responsibility, because of the demands of healthcare and social care, if we do not change the tax system and claim more tax, our national debt will grow to three times our GDP—it is one times our GDP today—so we cannot simply scrap taxes without introducing alternative measures.
I am going to propose a measure. I would like the threshold remain at £500,000, as my hon. Friend the Member for South Thanet (Craig Mackinlay) proposed. We have to find that £8.3 billion annually, so we have to look at annual property taxes. The council tax system, under which people pay pretty much the same whether they live in a castle or a cottage, cannot be right. We need to revisit it and have a proper discussion about it. It is controversial. Some people think it is right that people who own bigger houses should pay more, and other people think it is wrong. We should certainly have a conversation about that.
The think-tank Onward recently proposed that there should be a council tax revaluation, and even the Prime Minister suggested back in 2014 that we should look at it. The thing about it is that it is simple. We can scrap stamp duty completely up to £500,000, and keep it at that level. We can also adjust the bands to make it cheaper for people in lower-value homes, to help people on lower incomes, and make it more expensive for people in higher-value homes.
It is simple, but it is not easy. Simple and easy are two completely different things. As Ronald Reagan said, there are simple solutions, but there are no easy solutions. If we are to tackle some of the unfairnesses in society, we must not duck the tough issues; we must look at the things that make the system unfair in the first place. This is an excellent measure, and I will support it tonight if we enter the Lobbies.
It is a pleasure to follow my hon. Friend the Member for South Cambridgeshire (Anthony Browne), who speaks with great passion and knowledge on this subject.
Coronavirus has had a devastating impact on the housing market, with property transactions falling by up to 50% in May and housing prices falling for the first time in eight years. One of the most important areas for job creation is the whole housing sector, so we need mechanisms with which to stimulate, loosen the barriers, open the market and instil confidence in people to buy, sell and renovate. The Chancellor’s announcement last week introducing a temporary SDLT cut until 31 March next year by increasing the nil rate threshold to £500,000 plays a key role in doing that. It is estimated that this measure will mean that approximately 90% of people buying their main home this year will pay no SDLT, which is great news. I believe the conversation on SDLT should go even further, and I would welcome exploring its removal for buyers altogether, with perhaps the consideration for such a tax to be transferred to the seller. Alternatively, as was suggested by my hon. Friend the Member for Thirsk and Malton (Kevin Hollinrake), who is no longer in his place, we could look at an ongoing annual property tax review.
Through last week’s announcements, we have seen, yet again, that the Chancellor is on the side of business and jobs. This temporary SDLT cut is yet another tangible, significant weapon in our Government’s armoury to reignite the economy through our overall plan to create jobs. House builders alone support nearly 750,000 jobs, with millions more people relying on the availability of the housing sector and housing market to find work.
One of the first visits I undertook as the proud new Member for Keighley was to Keighley College, where I was lucky enough to meet one of its level 1 students who was undertaking a construction course. I witnessed him building a wall in one of the college’s classrooms for the first time, where he started to learn the skills needed for the building trade and the ropes required to get on. With its principal, Steve Kelly, and his awesome team, who are full of enthusiasm and want the very best for their students in Keighley, I went on to see students undertaking fabrication and welding, electrical, plumbing, gas safety and engineering courses, all with students who were determined to progress, upskill and get a job.
The Chancellor’s announcements last week on SDLT, along with many other packages, are most welcome, as it is vital that we use every mechanism to kick-start the whole housing market and get its wheels in motion, so that, in turn, the construction industry, which attracts a huge number of employees, can start moving again, and so that keen and enthusiastic students such as those at Keighley College can learn a trade, with the comfort of knowing that they will be greeted with a job at the other side.
This is such an important debate, as it actively aims to create, secure and protect jobs. Many Conservatives have contributed to the debate, but only two Labour Back Benchers have done so. In summary, this Bill demonstrates that this Conservative Government are on the side of those hard-working families who want to get on the housing ladder and progress. For those first-time buyers, it loosens the market, while ensuring that those hard-working families have more money in their pocket.