Bishop of Portsmouth urges U-turn on stamp duty rises

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The Bishop of Portsmouth has urged the Government to think again on stamp duty rises aimed at hitting the buy-to-let market.

The Rt Rev Christopher Foster used a Lords debate on the autumn statement to warn ministers the issue was more complex than it appeared and vulnerable groups in society could be penalised as a result.

The Bishop insisted that, in certain circumstances, the elderly and those in tied accommodation, should not have to face the “threat” of 3 per cent extra on stamp duty Chancellor George Osborne announced for people purchasing second homes or buy-to-let properties from next April.

‘Empty properties when people are inadequately housed, or without housing, are clearly wrong. However, these proposals are not without complexity.

‘Because we need to encourage older people to move at the right time from a family home to something smaller, that transition can be difficult enough for people who are ill, or vulnerable, or recently widowed for instance, without the threat of a stamp duty penalty if their sale and purchase do not precisely coincide,’ the Bishop said.

Workers, such as some in the clergy, in tied accommodation for service reasons might seek ‘what may technically be a second home to provide for housing needs in retirement’ he added.

Lib Dem peer Lord Shipley welcomed the Government’s U-turn on proposed £4.4 billion cuts to tax credits as he insisted the less well off needed to be protected.

“No government should attempt to balance the books on the backs of the poor. I am glad the Government now recognises its approach has been out of balance, trying to get too much from cuts, too little from tax,” the Lib Dem peer said.

Conservative peer Lord Carrington of Fulham dismissed critics who derided Mr Osborne as a “lucky chancellor”, insisting he had created his own luck through good planning and tough decision making.

For the Opposition, Lord Davies of Oldham said the Chancellor could not sustain his long-term economic plan.

While welcoming the U-turn on cuts to tax credits, he warned ministers were still planning to “savage” the welfare budget.

“The Government is still victimising the poor,” Lord Davies said, adding that austerity was a political choice and the Government was asking others to pay the price for it.

Treasury minister Lord O’Neill of Gatley said the Government remained on track to achieve an overall surplus by 2020.

He denied the apprenticeship levy amounted to a “back door tax” and insisted it was part of encouraging the corporate world to invest in skills.

Lord O’Neill said that despite long-term challenges Britain was in a “fundamentally stronger place” than five or six years ago.