Government tries to prevent housing market stalling as buyers hope for tax holiday

The chancellor, Alistair Darling, has tried to quell uncertainty over stamp duty reform by saying that he is still looking at a variety of options as part of a wider package of measures to aid economic recovery.

Speculation over a possible imminent move on stamp duty had been causing confusion in the UK housing market, with surveyors warning of a possible collapse in sales as buyers delayed purchase in the hope of a cut in the tax.

A Treasury statement has responded that media reports earlier this week of plans for a stamp duty holiday were “simply wrong”, although Darling is still refusing to rule out such a move.

The Treasury said: “These stories are based on speculation. The government has made clear that there are a number of options we will need to consider to help businesses and people get through what is undoubtedly a difficult time.”

Estate agents warned earlier this week that a months-long hiatus in sales could be caused by the uncertainty over possible government action on stamp duty.

The Liberal Democrats have called for decisive action on stamp duty in order to save the housing market, while the Tories have also criticised the government for dallying on the issue.