HC Deb 06 December 1978 vol 959 cc1417-9
21. Mr. Costain

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment what measures he intends to bring forward in order to increase home ownership.

Mr. Shore

From 1st December prospective first-time buyers can begin to qualify for benefits under the"home loan" scheme. I recently announced a decision to keep the value of the option mortgage subsidy at the same level as basic rate tax relief—33 per cent. The Housing Bill will include provisions on local authority mortgage rates and guarantees. I hope to expand the support lending scheme with the building societies. I shall continue to work with the societies to create a stable housing market.

Mr. Costain

Is not the Secretary of State rather ashamed of that complacent reply, having regard to all that he has done to stop house purchases and all that he has done in regard to rent restrictions to stop houses being let? Does he not have some positive ideas to get better housing in this country?

Mr. Shore

If the hon. Gentleman is concerned with the increase in home ownership, which I understand he is, he will have noticed that home ownership has increased about 600,000 in the past four years. He will have noticed, further, that we have introduced a scheme to make it possible for the first time for many people who are not particularly well off to surmount the first major hurdle of accumulating a sufficient deposit in order to begin to become home buyers. That is the purpose of the new home loan scheme which we have just launched and which I believe many people will want to take up.

Mr. Litterick

Does not the Secretary of State agree, however, that the combination of a 12 per cent. minimum lending rate with a 5 per cent. maximum limit on wage increases is almost a classic formula for preventing young people from buying houses and, therefore, for ensuring that tens of thousands of building workers remain unemployed?

Mr. Shore

The 12 per cent. mortgage rate is a very unwelcome development. Nevertheless, it is a fact that the number of people buying their homes has increased. Indeed, the number has been running at a record level this year, and that follows 1977, which was an all-time record year.

Mr. Heseltine

Is not the Secretary of State aware that in each year of the present Government there have been 40,000 fewer new homes than in the four years of the previous Conservative Government? Is not he further aware that the single most significant step that any Government could take to increase the prospect of home ownership is to give a statutory right to council tenants to buy their own homes and, therefore, to enable those people who are at present council tenants to share in the massive personal benefit that has accrued to those who have bought their own homes in a property owning democracy?

Mr. Shore

All that the hon. Member is saying is extremely obvious. He is saying that if I am prepared to contemplate a massive reduction in the necessary supply of rented accommodation, I can have an equivalent increase in owner-occupation. I do not believe that that is the right way to proceed. It is in the interests of our people that we should make available an increased supply of homes for owner-occupation and not deplete a necessary local authority rented sector.