Do not the Government realise that there is no restriction on the number of houses on which mortgage interest relief can be given and that there are grounds for believing that some persons claim mortgage relief on more than one house? Will he not place a restriction on the wealthiest people, if he is requiring the poor to be subjected to a means test?
Is my hon. Friend aware that to accept this proposal would mean a constant change in the ceiling above which tax relief is disallowed, if for no other reason than that house prices continue to rise? Would it not be better to encourage home ownership by regarding tax relief as a recompense for the cost of maintaining the property?
One of the main social justifications for tax relief, as my hon. Friend suggests, is the encouragement of home ownership, a policy which I should have thought was supported by both sides of the House.
In view of the Minister's observations, is there not a case for establishing a ceiling for mortgages on which tax relief is allowed, so as to ease the position for first mortgage applicants and newly married couples who seek to become owner-occupiers of moderately priced houses?
As I am sure the hon. Gentleman knows, the option mortgage scheme, which is intended to help the categories of people to whom he refers, has been improved by the present Government. The Labour Party should recognise that the value of reliefs must be related to the marginal top rate of tax of the tax payers, and if the rates of tax are high, the rates of relief will be correspondingly high.