Sunday, May 17, 2009

Nick Clegg right on Second Homes Profit

During PMQs last week, Nick challenged Gordon Brown to agree with him that no MP should profit on the sale of a second home that's been funded by the taxpayer. What I think is particularly good is that words matched deeds - he has committed every Lib Dem MP to this course of action, too. He isn't waiting for some Committee to rule that this should be the case, he's stating that case ahead of time.

"A really simple principle is at stake: we are here to serve our constituents, not to make a fast buck on the property market. That is why I have always thought that we should do what they do in Scotland: simply end—stop—any taxpayer-funded mortgages altogether. Until the new rules are in place, we Liberal Democrat Members have committed ourselves to handing back to the taxpayer every pound of any gain made from the sale of second homes funded by the taxpayer. Will the Prime Minister at least make that commitment?

The Prime Minister:
...As for the right hon. Gentleman’s proposal about houses, I know that capital gains tax has to be paid on these second homes. That is the first priority, and the other matters can be dealt with in representations to the committee."

Why wouldn't Gordon Brown give that simple commitment that MPs should not profit from taxpayer funded mortgages? Nor have we heard from David Cameron on the subject.

A clue might be found in Sandra Gidley's reply to a tweet from me asking that question:

"@caronmlindsay - fascinating - you should have been watching Labour faces and listening to Tory comment from behind - they don't like it!
1:32 PM May 13th from web"

I know that by raising this issue that some clever person will point out that Tavish Scott has not been quite as enthusiastic about making such a commitment on behalf of MSPs. In fairness he hasn't said "no", he's said "wait". I actually think he should have said "yes." I don't see why I should pay for an MP or MSP to make a huge personal gain. Nick was great on BBC the morning of PMQs where he said that he always thought of his second home as being on loan to him from the taxpayer and when he no longer needed it any gain should be given to the taxpayer. It's straightforward and fair.

I would add one thing, though. If MPs or MSPs have made alterations to the property which have improved its value, that have been paid for out of their own pockets, then this, in fairness, should be deducted from any gain they pay back.

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