Foreign owners of homes ‘crooks’

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Published: Thursday 12th February 2015 by The News Editor

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A high number of the foreign owners of luxury London properties are “crooks”, a Liberal Democrat peer has suggested.

Lawyer Lord Phillips of Sudbury, the former legal eagle on the Jimmy Young Show, said rich buyers from abroad were using the UK in a “very cynical way”.

His comments came as peers called for a crackdown on empty homes in the capital.

Lord Phillips asked Local Government Minister Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon: “Would you concur with the widely held belief that a high proportion of foreign purchasers of very expensive London properties are crooks and that they are using the safety of this country in a very cynical way?

“Has any assessment been made of that and, if so, is any action in the pipeline to prevent it?”

Lord Ahmad told peers at question time in the Lords: “I can’t agree. London is an incredible place and we want to attract investment. I think what the Government wants to do and is doing is to ensure we tackle tax avoidance.”

Tory Lord Marlesford said: “If a lot of ordinary houses that people needed were empty, that would be a very bad thing.

“But when these very big grand houses held by foreigners are empty, what people really mind is that they are not making a proper contribution through the council tax system because a £20 million penthouse only pays three times what the humblest dwelling pays.”

He said he had put forward a Private Member’s Bill that would make the top band of council tax 42 times the lowest.

“That would be a much better solution to the present situation which is untenable and unsustainable and much better than the mansion tax which is unworkable,” he said.

Lord Ahmad said he agreed about the mansion tax, but the Government had “no plans to look at council tax re-evaluation”.

Labour peer Lord Dubs said: “There is still widespread anger at the number of empty properties there are in this country, particularly in London where developers build luxury properties, market them abroad to people who simply use them as an investment and not for housing.

“Surely what we need is to have more powerful local authorities to impose swingeing rates of council tax on properties left empty for a long time and ensure that those local authorities use them.”

But Lord Ahmad said: “This Government has provided tools and incentives to tackle empty properties. The number of homes empty for more than six months is now at record lows.”

Published: Thursday 12th February 2015 by The News Editor

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