HC Deb 25 October 1973 vol 861 cc1462-4
17. Mr. McCrindle

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer what recent discussions he has had with the Building Societies Association.

Mr. Barber

There have been a number of discussions between the Government and the Building Societies Association in recent weeks, as a result of which my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister announced proposals on 8th October for stabilising the flow of mortgage funds and helping first-time house purchasers.

Mr. McCrindle

I appreciate the assistance that it is proposed to extend to first-time buyers, but will my right hon. Friend not consider improving the tax relief on all mortgages up to £10,000 and, at the same time, improving the option mortgage system so that the assistance which the Government propose to direct could be spread over a much larger number of people?

Mr. Barber

The assistance that has already been provided is considerable. I am always willing to consider any suggestions which are made by my hon. Friend or from any other quarter of the House. The cost of tax relief on mortgage interest is now approximately £400 million a year. Further, there is the option mortgage subsidy.

Mr. Healey

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the Woolwich Equitable Building Society has announced today that it has no intention of adopting the proposals made by his right hon. Friend the Prime Minister? It has described those proposals as highly inflationary. Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that it has complained bitterly that they should have been put forward without detailed discussions with those who were asked to adopt them?

Mr. Barber

I think that the right hon. Gentleman has totally misunderstood the situation. The fact is that there were detailed discussions with the Building Societies Association. Apparently the right hon. Gentleman does not know that as a result of the discussions the council of the association has agreed in principle to recommend a scheme to its members. The association itself is now considering the details. It is hoped that the scheme can be introduced as soon as practicable That is reality.

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