HC Deb 15 December 1971 vol 828 cc431-3
4. Mr. Chapman

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will take steps to encourage building societies to make it easier for low income groups to buy their own homes.

Mr. Amery

I have been closely in touch with leaders of the building society movement. Modestly paid mortgagors have been helped by a number of recent developments—notably by the increase in the money limit within which the Government help to guarantee high mortgage advances to option mortgagors. It is estimated from a sample survey that out of about 480,000 building society advances in the first nine months of this year, about 90,000 were made to mortgagors with incomes of less than £1,400 a year.

Mr. Chapman

I recognise that trend, but my hon. Friend will appreciate the increasing number of houses being built for private occupation, the reduction in mortgage interest rate and the simple fact that, given the chance, the vast majority of families want to start the process of owning their own homes. Could I suggest that the Department, as a matter of urgency, should get together with the Treasury to hammer out a policy to bring to reality what is but a dream—home ownership—for these families on low incomes?

Mr. Amery

I will certainly bear my hon. Friend's point in mind. He will no doubt have noticed the steps taken by the Alliance Building Society to make it easier for people with reasonable prospects but with low incomes to buy their own houses.

Mr. Crosland

The whole House will wish to congratulate no fewer than three Conservative Members on preparing their own Questions and supplementary questions. If this is all their own work it is a most meritorious and unusual achievement. Does the Minister realise that making it easier for people on low incomes to buy their own houses is not fundamentally a matter for the building societies but is a matter of having a policy on land prices? Will he say what is the Government's policy in this respect?

Mr. Amery

It is one of the interesting problems that face the present Administration that we have to have a constructive land policy—[HON. MEMBERS: "What is it?"]—whereas the Labour Party when in power was unable even to create demand for new houses. We are tackling this problem—[HON. MEMBERS: "How?"] I am sure the House would be very weary if I were to indulge in a speech on land policy today, but there will be opportunities presently when I shall be able to give a detailed explanation on this score.

Mr. McCrindle

Will my right hon. Friend impress on the building societies that as the average working man spends most of his life building up his pension, there is no reason why he should not spread repayment of his mortgage over a much longer period than the maximum at present allowed by the building societies?

Mr. Amery

I am sure that building societies will take note of my hon. Friend's point. They have already come a long way since the present Administration came to power in easing the task of those who want to buy their own homes.

Mr. Ashton

Will the Minister now reply to my right hon. Friend's question? Since in many areas the price of houses has gone up by as much as 15 per cent. in the past year, how can low-income families keep pace with house price increases?

Mr. Amery

The hon. Gentleman will be aware, from his knowledge of economics, that the price of land would not be going up, in spite of the reduction in interest rates, if there were not a very strong demand from the public which is saving money for the first time since the devaluation of 1968.