§ 29. Mr. Stephen Ross
asked the Secretary of State for the Environment whether he will take steps to extend the advantages of the option mortgage scheme to elderly owner-occupiers who are not liable to income tax.
§ Mr. Stanley
I refer the hon. Member to the answer I gave earlier today to my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Northfield (Mr. Cadbury).
§ Mr. Ross
Is the Minister aware that I thought at that time his answer was most disappointing and I am sorry that, 25 questions later, he has not managed to change it? Does the hon. Gentleman agree that it is essential to try to keep within the community elderly people who are facing problems in maintaining their homes so that they do not fall as a charge upon the State? If the hon. Gentleman cannot introduce the option mortgage scheme or some system whereby these people can be given capital to maintain their properties, will he look at the possibility of low-cost loans, from either the local authorities or the banks, to enable elderly people to maintain their houses, 1423 which must be in the interests of all concerned?
§ Mr. Stanley
As I made clear to my hon. Friend the Member for Northfield, we are certainly sympathetic towards the objective of trying to help elderly owner-occupiers to remain in their homes. However, I am afraid that we are not able to contemplate the increase in public expenditure which the schemes to which the hon. Gentleman referred would be bound to involve.