HC Deb 24 July 1969 vol 787 cc2208-10

Lords Amendment No. 15: In page 45, line 25, at end insert new Clause "B": B.—(1) In section 24(3) of the Housing Subsidies Act, 1967, the following shall he inserted after paragraph (vi)— '(vii) the taking effect of a notice under section 26A of this Act.' (2) After section 26 of that Act there shall be inserted the following section:— '26A.—(1) Where an option notice has been given in respect of a loan the person or persons in whom the rights and obligations under the repayment contract are for the time being vested may by notice to the lender bring the period for which the option notice has effect to an end on 31st March of any year not earlier than 1973, but only if not less than five years have then elapsed since the date of the repayment contract. (2) A notice under this section must be in writing and in such form as the Minister may direct and must be given not less than three months before the date on which it is to take effect.' ".

Mr. MacColl

I beg to move, That the House doth agree with the Lords in the said Amendment.

This is in the form of new Clause B, and deals with a matter which was discussed both on the Housing (Subsidies) Bill in 1967 and on this Bill. The House will remember that on Report we introduced a new Clause which provided power for my right hon. Friend to make Orders to extend the option mortgage scheme. Both Front Benches thought it desirable to have some degree of contracting-out.

The difficulty was that the lending agencies found great trouble in doing so. Originally, in 1967, they agreed to contract in in cases of hardship, but it was not possible to reach agreement about contracting out. We promised that we would continue our discussions, and I am happy to say that we were able to reach agreement to have a five-year period at the end of which a borrower may contract out of the scheme. It is a once-and-for-all choice. He does not get a period of grace every five years on his mortgage. We feel that this is a desirable addition to make to the Bill.

7.0 p.m.

Mr. Peter Walker (Worcester)

I can understand the halting and hesitant voice with which the Minister proposed the new Clause. If ever there was a case of a Government constantly saying that in their view something was impossible and the Opposition saying that it was not and that it could be done, it is mortgage options.

Last October we stated in a policy statement that this would be our policy. There was an immediate reaction from the Government saying that it was absurd and could not be done.

In a censure debate in January the Minister of Housing and Local Government—we are all sorry to hear that he is ill in hospital, and I am sure that both sides of the House wish him a speedy recovery—waved a paper at me and said that it was impossible and how wrong were my promises to the electors in this sphere.

On Report, we were again told that it was impossible. Finally, due to the constant efforts of the Opposition, the Government gave way. We are delighted that they have given way, but we do not think much of the way that they have done it. Many people with mortgage options feel that they have been swindled by the scheme. I believe that 1973 is not soon enough. When we are returned to office in the near future, we will allow those who have already taken out mortgage options to exercise an option before 1973 and thereafter, if considered right and appropriate, we will keep the five-year timetable.

As this is an improvement and an acceptance of the principle of the Opposition's policy, we welcome the new Clause.

Mr. MacColl

A strong Government does not need to be worried about being ragged over a matter like this. We have always said that we were not against it in principle. We had a diplomatic undertanding about getting the lending agencies to agree, which was not helped by the demagogic activities of hon. Gentlemen opposite. But by good humour and calmness, we reached agreement. The hon. Gentleman can have his crow, but we are interested in getting on with the job that we want to do.

Question put and agreed to. [Special Entry.]

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