§ 10. Mr. Harry Barnes
To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what is his latest estimate of the number of home-owners with mortgage arrears.
§ Mr. Barnes
I am sure that all hon. Members are meeting more and more constituents whose debts have reached crisis point. Many have become homeless, and the position has been worsened by the increase in mortgage rates. The plight of those people is desperate: they also face increases in transport and heating costs, and the poll tax, which is yet to be imposed in England and Wales. Are not we moving from crisis to catastrophe, and should not those who reside at No. 10 and No. 11 Downing street be evicted, rather than our constituents?
§ Mr. Tim Smith
Will my right hon. Friend confirm that the figures that he just gave for mortgage arrears account for 0.73 of 1 per cent. of all mortgage holders, and that that proportion is lower than it was at the end of 1985? If that number is in arrears, by definition 99.27 per cent. of people are not.
§ Mr. Benn
Is the Chancellor aware that—quite apart from the tragedy of repossession—many people who had thought that they were home owners have discovered that they are home buyers? There is a big difference between the two. The Government have no interest in home buyers; they try to persuade home buyers that they are home owners, which they are now discovering that they are not.
§ Mr. Major
The right hon. Gentleman is clearly unaware that the number of properties repossessed in 1989—which, I think, underlies his concern—was less than one fifth of 1 per cent. of the number of building society loans. The problem has been there for a long time, and it certainly existed when the right hon. Gentleman was a Minister.
Mr. John Smith
Does the Chancellor recollect that in the Conservative party's 1979 manifesto the then level of interest rates and mortgage repayments were said to result 385 from what was called "Government financial mismanagement"? After 11 years of Conservative Government, with people are suffering the highest mortgage repayments in our history, is that still true? Is it caused by Government financial mismanagement and, if not, what is the reason for all this misery?
§ Mrs. Currie
Does my right hon. Friend agree that the building societies, which have been lending young people three and four times their income to buy overvalued properties, must take some of the blame? Does he also accept that what is worrying people in my constituency is not just the mortgage rate but a combination of the mortgage rate and the potentially astronomical community charge? Will he take cognisance of that and invite my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment to cap Derbyshire county council?