HC Deb 13 January 2004 vol 416 cc653-4
2. Mr. Mark Lazarowicz (Edinburgh, North and Leith)(Lab/Co-op)

What assessment he has made of the implications for Scotland of the Miles report on housing finance. [146392]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Scotland (Mrs. Anne McGuire)

The interim report by David Miles on the UK mortgage market was published on 9 December 2003. The Government will consider it carefully and look forward to the final report, which is due by the 2004 Budget. It would therefore be premature to make any assessment specifically for Scotland.

Mr. Lazarowicz

When the Government come to consider the final Miles report, and also the Barker report, will she make it clear to the Treasury that the problems associated with volatility and shortage of supply in the housing market affect not just the south-east of England, but places such as Edinburgh as well? Will she use her good offices with the Treasury to ensure that, if any pilot scheme emerges from the reports, my constituents in Edinburgh, who often have difficulty affording housing in the city, will benefit from those reports?

Mrs. McGuire

Many of us share my hon. Friend's understanding of the hot spots in the housing market in Edinburgh, and even my own constituency of Stirling faces significant difficulties. I reassure him that the Scottish Executive are fully engaged with the Miles report. In fact, I hope that his comments about including Scotland in any pilot areas that my right hon. Friend the Chancellor may embark on will be fully taken into account.

John Thurso (Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross) (LD)

In his interim report, Professor Miles states that there is a poor understanding of risk among mortgage borrowers. Does the Minister accept that it is often the most vulnerable in society who have both the largest amount of debt and possibly the least appreciation of the associated risks, and that that problem is shown by the report to be worse in Scotland than in the UK as a whole? What research will the Government undertake to consider that aspect of the question?

Mrs. McGuire

The hon. Gentleman makes a valid point. One of the difficulties, particularly with those on fixed or lower incomes, is perhaps that they do not appreciate the full risk that they are taking on, partly because of poor advice when they take on that debt. The Miles report is only an interim one and has made no recommendations, and David Miles has said that he wants to discuss issues related to some of the points that the hon. Gentleman makes with the Financial Services Authority and the Office of Fair Trading.