HC Deb 26 June 1962 vol 661 cc937-8
19. Mr. Fisher

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether he will introduce legislation to authorise British building societies to invest a small proportion of their surplus funds in Australian house mortgages, if they so wish, in order to aid British immigrants to Australia.

Sir E. Boyle

No, Sir. It is still the Government's view that this would not be an appropriate way to meet the need which my hon. Friend has in mind.

Mr. Fisher

Is my hon. Friend aware that permission to advance money in this way would be acceptable to some of the leading British building societies, would be very much welcomed by the Australian Government, and would be of tremendous assistance to British immigrants in Australia, some of whom have to wait more than a year before they even get on a housing waiting list? Why is the Treasury so reluctant to be helpful when this could be done at no cost to the British taxpayer and could be done so easily through building societies, as we urged at the time of the Building Societies Act, 1960?

Sir E. Boyle

I appreciate the feelings of my hon. Friend and other hon. Members on this subject, which can hardly he dealt with adequately by question and answer. The Government's views were fully stated by my hon. Friend the Economic Secretary during the debates on the Building Societies Act two years ago, and in the Government's view nothing has happened since to justify changing their policy.

Mr. P. Williams

Would my hon. Friend like another Adjournment debate on this matter? Why is it not possible to do something? This proposal would be some way of meeting the needs of immigrants and of providing finance for housing, and is something which the Government should not shelve with Civil Service answers.

Sir E. Boyle

There is a difficulty about having an Adjournment debate because of debating something involving legislation, but I do not want to ride out on that unfairly. If my hon. Friend wishes to talk about this, either my hon. Friend the Economic Secretary or I would be glad to discuss it with him and his hon. Friends.

Mr. Elwyn Jones

If building societies have surplus funds, should they not be encouraged to use them to help those in desperate need of housing in this country to acquire their own houses?

Sir E. Boyle

I do not want to debate the matter now, but the surplus funds of building societies are intended to be their liquid assets. That was the point of my hon. Friend's speech. But I do not think that we can pursue the matter much further today.