My hon. Friend has made a good point. Many people are caught in the trap of not being able to afford mortgage repayments, and often have mortgages that are greater than the value of their properties. Such people have no way of escape, and the Government should be doing something for them.
On 10 July 1990, I introduced, as a ten-minute Bill, the Mortgage Assistance Bill. Had the Government accepted that Bill, we should not now have a collapsed housing market and 100,000 repossessions. I will not repeat all that I said then—it is to be found at columns 181 to 183 of Hansard of that day. However, I made five main proposals.
The first was to allow mortgage payers to convert to part-ownership, thereby scaling down the ownership element and allowing time to meet reduced payments. The second was to let the mortgage payer convert to shared ownership with a local authority or housing association, so that he would pay half mortgage and half rent, thereby reducing the amount that he would have to pay and the debt that he had incurred.
My third suggestion was that we should facilitate conversion from ownership to rental, and a great deal more needs to be done to allow those faced with debts that they cannot repay to move over to rental but to stay in their own homes. Such a move could be supported by local authorities.
Fourthly, I said that there should be a duty on the lending institutions, the building societies and the banks to sort out alternative arrangements before any court action for repossession. All too often they wash their hands of cases, take people to court and repossess properties before investigating all the means for helping people to stay in their homes.
The fifth measure that I proposed was special funds for local authorities and new borrowing arrangements to enable them to enter shared ownership schemes, and special funds to housing associations. The Government still ignore that suggestion. They will not give local authorities money to tackle the problem of repossessions.
This puny, stamp-sized measure that the Government have introduced is far too little, far too late.