§ 6. Mr. Nicholas Winterton
To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will identify those proposals in his latest unified budget which are intended specifically to promote home ownership.
§ The Minister of State, Treasury (Mr. Anthony Nelson)
My right hon. and learned Friend's most recent Budget included measures to double grants to help council tenants buy homes and Housing Corporation programmes, worth £208 million, to extend home ownership.
§ Mr. Winterton
I am grateful to my hon. Friend for that response and I recognise the basic strength of our economy, but does he accept, however, that for many decades it has been Conservative party policy to encourage home ownership? Does he accept that recent Budgets have provided a disincentive to home ownership and that the housebuilding sector of our economy is critical to our economic success, as so many other sectors of manufacturing depend on it? Does he also accept—I say this with some regret—that the latest interest rate rise is thoroughly undesirable and will thoroughly depress the building sector?
§ Mr. Nelson
Let me assure my hon. Friend that the Government remain firmly committed to home ownership, which, since we took office, has increased by 4.3 million to 15.6 million. On the interest rate increase, there can be no doubt that the health and prospects of the housing and construction markets rely on a period of sustained low inflationary growth. It is my right hon. and learned Friend's judgment that that is most likely to be achieved if we continue to bear down on inflation. We have no interest in setting interest rates higher than is necessary to achieve that objective.
§ Mr. Tony Banks
Is not one of the great problems with our economy the fact that so much future prosperity is based on property prices?
§ Mr. Nelson
It is a wholly natural instinct and a desirable objective for many people to build up a financial interest in their home—to be reliant on that asset, to enjoy it and to be responsible for ownership. That is what this party has always supported when in government and we shall continue to do so. The changes introduced in successive Budgets, to mortgage interest relief or other areas, should not damage the long-term prospects for home ownership. The figures demonstrate that that has increased and the prospects for it being maintained lie in a gentle revival of that market, which today's action on interest rates should sustain rather than undermine.