HC Deb 08 April 1968 vol 762 cc899-902
64 and 65. Mr. Edward M. Taylor

asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government (I) if he will seek a meeting with the Building Societies Association to discuss the possibility of stabilising mortgage interest rates;

(2) what effect he estimates that the present shortage of funds of the building societies for financing new mortgages will have on the housing programme.

Mr. Greenwood

I apologise again.

I maintain continuing contact with the Building Societies Association about the availability of finance for house purchase. The Societies' forward commitments to new mortgages continue at a high level. The main issue under consideration at present is not an immediate shortage of funds for lending but the steps which may be necessary If secure the requisite finance over the months ahead.

Mr. Taylor

Does the Minister agree that an increase in house mortgage interest rates appears to be inevitable tomorrow and that that would affect millions of people? As the troubles stem directly from the Government's financial policies, will the Minister take the initiative in holding an urgent meeting to see how this can be avoided?

Mr. Greenwood

I do not accept the hon. Member's assumption that a rise in rates is inevitable in the very near future. I maintain constant contact with the Building Societies Association, and officials of the Ministry had discussions with it last week. The Association is having discussions this week, and I think it much wiser for us to wait until we know the results of those discussions before commenting on what is likely to happen.

Mr. William Hamilton

Since the Government's prices and incomes policy provides for basic increases in wages and incomes of not more than 3½ per cent. a year, will my right hon. Friend insist that the same applies to the rates the building societies charge mortgagees?

Mr. Greenwood

We shall certainly insist on the desirability of keeping down any increase of this kind. At the same time we must appreciate the need for building societies to be able to attract the money from the public.

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

In view of the particularly severe effect of high mortgage rates and the prospective shortage of funds on home buyers in the London area, will the Minister give relief to them by raising his ban on lending for house purchase by the G.L.C?

Mr. Greenwood

The general level of local government lending in the immediate future will remain the same. I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman will have very much welcomed the option mortgage scheme which came into operation on 1st April

Viscount Lambton

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Am I to understand that it is in order for a Minister to answer Questions at any time after half-past three on a day on which he is absent from the Government Front Bench?

Mr. Speaker

It is most unusual. It has happened before, for otherwise there would be no Standing Order about it The Standing Order says: No questions shall be taken after half-past three of the clock, except questions which have not been answered in consequence of the absence of the Minister to whom they are addressed…". When the Minister came in I had to choose between interfering with the Private Notice Question and the Questions which were being asked by permission at the end of the Order Paper and intervening. I waited until those were over before I put the Standing Order into operation. It is most unusual, I must admit.

Mr. Onslow

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. May I draw your attention to the fact that my hon. Friend the Member for South Angus (Mr. Bruce-Gardyne) is in his seat, and may I invite you to call his Question?

Mr. Speaker

I assure the hon. Gentleman that that point had not escaped my notice. But I understand that he was not in his position at the moment when the Questions were being answered.

Mr. Bruce-Gardyne

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. I entirely accept that I was not here when earlier Questions were asked, but I understand that my Question was not taken with earlier Questions.

Mr. Speaker

The answer is a simple one. The hon. Gentleman was not here when we reached the Minister and would not, therefore, have been able to put his Question.

Viscount Lambton

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. With respect, you have not answered my question. Is it possible for a Minister to answer a Question for which he was not present at any time after half-past three, or is there any time after which he cannot answer the Question?

Mr. Speaker

I would hope that there is a limited time, but I do not think that it is in the Standing Orders. I am sure that the House would be unwilling for a Minister who had not answered a Question at the proper time to answer it six or seven hours later. The contingency seems not to have been envisaged, even by our all-embracing Standing Orders.