Housing Market

Part of Opposition Day – in the House of Commons at 9:38 pm on 13th June 1995.

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Photo of David Curry David Curry , Skipton and Ripon 9:38 pm, 13th June 1995

It would be churlish of me not to thank colleagues for all the free publicity that they have given my constituency—and, in particular, the Skipton building society—over the past few days. It may be appropriate for me to declare that I have no interest other than my interest as a constituency Member of Parliament. Indeed, John Goodfellow, the building society's chief executive, has authorised me to say that all those providing the publicity are not doing so on a commission basis. Perhaps, in the age of Lord Nolan, that point is worth making.

I am glad that the hon. Member for Glasgow, Garscadden (Mr. Dewar) has been boning up on Skipton, and I shall be pleased to arrange for him to visit. A short while ago Prince Charles visited Skipton, and made some remarks about the headquarters of the building society. They were not complimentary. Following a certain correspondence in the Craven Herald and Pioneer, one of the great organs of the north of England, one correspondent wrote a letter that ran simply as follows: "Dear Sir, Thank God Prince Charles did not visit Bingley."

As I have said, I shall happily arrange a visit for the hon. Member for Garscadden—including a trip to Skipton castle, which, despite the depredations of the parliamentary forces, is still in one piece and is inhabited by the Fattorini family, who will doubtless be pleased to show the hon. Gentleman round. I shall also be happy to show him the birthplace of Iain Macleod, one of the town's most distinguished citizens. The hon. Gentleman would enjoy himself—although I suspect that puritanical gloom is so central to his character that he would anticipate enjoying himself with real apprehension.

It would, of course, be best for the hon. Gentleman to meet John Goodfellow, the chief executive of the Skipton building society, who is a Glaswegian. He will, no doubt, recognise instantly that a Scot running a Yorkshire company is unlikely to be overwhelmed by a sense of enthusiasm about giving money away. That is why it is important to look at what the society is planning.

The speech of the hon. Member for Garscadden—who said nothing noisily, and occasionally wittily—was interesting not for what he said, but for what he did not say. When my hon. Friend the Member for City of Chester (Mr. Brandreth) asked him whether Labour supported the idea of mortgage benefit, the hon. Gentleman did not say, "I am not going to mention that"; he said, "Hang on a minute—I shall come to that. It is a very important point." Indeed, he enjoined my hon. Friend to stay rooted to his seat.

My hon. Friend did so. The rooting was terrific. But the moment never came: the hon. Member for Garscadden said nothing. Like all Labour policies, this one never arrived. The same can be said of the entire Labour contribution to the debate. Here is a party that keeps telling the world that it is ready for government, yet it is not prepared to put a single policy before the British people.

There was another gem. The hon. Member for Greenwich (Mr. Raynsford)—the debate has, in a sense, been "Hamlet" without the prince, so constantly has the hon. Gentleman been mentioned—was alarmed at the accusation that he might inadvertently have revealed a Labour policy: the repeal of the changes in mortgage insurance that forms part of the Opposition motion. So alarmed was he at that suggestion that he might have unveiled a policy that he leapt to the Dispatch Box to say that he had not, in fact, pledged a repeal. He did not tell us whether the Labour party believed in our policy; what he said was, "We do not believe in it, but perhaps the time to act has not yet come."