HC Deb 27 April 1998 vol 311 cc10-1
7. Mr. Steve Webb (Northavon)

What is her Department's long-term policy on the involvement of the state in funding the mortgage costs of unemployed home buyers. [38485]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Social Security (Mr. Keith Bradley)

We made it clear in the Green Paper on welfare reform that we are working with the industry to provide better protection for all home buyers, including the unemployed. We aim to develop a sustainable policy, in line with the eight principles underpinning the Government's approach to welfare reform. We shall consider state involvement in the provision of help with mortgage costs as work on reforms proceeds.

Mr. Webb

Is the Minister aware that the Minister for Welfare Reform said to me a month ago that the best form of protection for all home buyers is private insurance? Does he agree that that is a mistaken view, that there are many people for whom private insurance is not appropriate and whom private insurers would not touch with a barge pole, and that there needs to be a continuing role for the state?

Mr. Bradley

There is an awful lot of quoting, or rather misquoting, going on today, which we shall examine carefully. Let me make it absolutely clear that we are working with the industry to ensure that products that are appropriate to meet the needs of people to protect their homes, and to protect themselves in their home ownership, will continue. We shall introduce proposals in line with that work as our welfare reform programme unfolds.

Mr. Peter L. Pike (Burnley)

Does my hon. Friend accept that, in the short term, people still have problems under the present system, which often does not provide the correct range of interest because of standardisation and the fact that the standardisation update follows some time after a mortgage rate increase? Another problem which still exists is that we pay the benefit four-weekly, whereas most mortgage interest is paid on a monthly basis, making it difficult to calculate whether the correct payments are received.

Mr. Bradley

I understand the concerns of my hon. Friend and many others. The difficulty is in managing the complex administrative procedures and ensuring that people get help and support with mortgage housing costs. I am pleased to be able to tell my hon. Friend that the standard interest rate will increase from 7.97 to 8.34 per cent. from 24 May.