Unemployed Persons (Mortgage Interest Payments)

Oral Answers to Questions — Social Services> – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 7th April 1987.

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Photo of Kevin Barron Kevin Barron , Rother Valley 12:00 am, 7th April 1987

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services how many people he expects will lose by the changes in the payments of mortgage interest for the unemployed; and if he will make a statement.

Photo of Mr John Major Mr John Major , Huntingdon

Our latest estimates suggest that just over 70,000 claimants will be affected at any one time by the recent changes in supplementary benefit payments for mortgage interest for new claimants under 60.

Photo of Kevin Barron Kevin Barron , Rother Valley

Is it not typical of the Government that they first put people's homes at risk by cutting the mortgage interest rate relief by half in the first 16 weeks, and then tell people to take out insurance policies against that happening to them when they become redundant? The Government then have the gall to send out a circular to say that they will take at least part of that money away from such people if they take out those policies.

Photo of Mr John Major Mr John Major , Huntingdon

We are not putting people's homes at risk, and there is no evidence to that effect. If the hon. Gentleman reads the remarks of the Building Societies Association he will see that it made that point clearly. There is no reason to suppose that people will lose their homes because of the change.

Photo of Eric Forth Eric Forth , Mid Worcestershire

Does my hon. Friend agree that people who voluntarily take on the responsibility of home ownership, and who stand to gain enormously from the benefits of that ownership are reasonably obliged to accept all that it entails? They should make provision for themselves and not necessarily look to the state as the first resort in times of difficulty.

Photo of Mr John Major Mr John Major , Huntingdon

That is a fair and valid point. Even from the first day of unemployment 50 per cent. of mortgage interest remains payable through the social security system, and the full amount is payable after 16 weeks.

Photo of Margaret Beckett Margaret Beckett Shadow Minister (Social Security)

Is it not extraordinary for the hon. Member for Mid-Worcestershire (Mr. Forth) to congratulate the Minister, as he was one of those who during our debate sang the praises of mortgage protection policies? Is it not outrageous for the Minister to defend the policy in those terms when he well knows that if people have taken out insurance policies, which in any case are not very good value for money, the Government will take the money from them, as my hon. Friend the Member for Rother Valley (Mr. Barron) said. What sort of way to proceed is that?

Photo of Mr John Major Mr John Major , Huntingdon

My hon. Friend the Member for Mid-Worcestershire (Mr. Forth) is being entirely consistent in his remarks today and in those that he made on an earlier occasion. We still have the most generous system of assistance with mortgage payments of any country in Europe.

Photo of Frank Field Frank Field , Birkenhead

May I ask a supplementary question to No. 3?

Photo of Frank Field Frank Field , Birkenhead

Question No. 4, Sir.