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Government announces stamp duty suspension

The government has unveiled new housing reforms, aimed at boosting the UK's slowing mortgage market.Among the proposals is a 12-month suspension of stamp duty for homes worth £175,000 or less.A "free" loans scheme for low-income households has also been mooted, along with a £1 billion programme to build cheap new social housing properties.The reforms come in the wake of gloomy new figures from the Bank of England, which showed that mortgage approvals levels have dropped by 71 per cent over the past year.Communities secretary Hazel Blears said: "This is part of a whole series of announcements to help people with the current economic difficulties that they face. We can't solve every single person's problems for them... but what they do expect from government is, where we can, practical help."Responding, shadow chancellor George Osbourne said that the Conservatives were "look[ing] at the details of these measures".He added: "I suspect that what we will see in the coming weeks is a desperate and short-term survival plan for the prime minister rather that the long-term economic plan the country needs."

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