Alistair Darling was accused of playing 'damaging short-term games' with the housing market yesterday after refusing to clarify whether he would suspend stamp duty in the autumn prebudget report.

Philip Hammond, shadow chief secretary to the Treasury, and the Home Builders Federation wrote separately to the chancellor warning that speculation could prompt a new trough in the market.

Would-be buyers would be deterred from purchasing homes if they thought the tax was likely to be suspended later in the year, they said.

'f this is to be debated in public for too long, clearly it could be detrimental to the market in terms of making people think about whether to proceed with a transaction,' the House Builders Federation said.

Financial Times