The Government are fully committed to promoting the continued growth of sustainable home ownership, both by prudent management of the economy and through specific policies to help people to become home owners.
Given that home ownership is a core value of Conservatism, does my hon. Friend agree that there has never been a better time at which to buy a house, that interest rates are at an historic low and that it makes good sense to invest in new property? Will he ensure that we include in the next Budget, and in the next general election manifesto, firm policy plans to enable more people to buy their homes? Home ownership is very popular, and most families aspire to it.
My hon. Friend is right. The relationship between interest rates, earnings and prices is now such that buying a home is virtually the bargain of the century. The market is clearly going to turn around next year. As for specific help for home buyers, my hon. Friend—who co-chairs the Standing Committee considering the Housing Bill with distinction—will know that the Committee has passed clauses permitting housing association tenants to acquire their properties in some circumstances.
What are the Government doing about the tens of thousands of people in negative equity or the tens of thousands of people who, spurred on by the Government's propaganda and mishandling of the economy, invested in homes and then lost them again? What will the Government do for them?
If the hon. Gentleman, like the hon. Member for Greenwich (Mr. Raynsford), had been at the Council for Mortgage Lenders on Friday, he would know that I raised that very issue with some of the lenders. I told them that their policies must be tailored to the new conditions in the economy—in which people have to change jobs and accept other changes—and that we now have sustained low inflation, rather than the rapid inflation to which people became accustomed. The Government's action is concerned with sustaining a very low rate of inflation, decreasing interest rates and, therefore, decreasing mortgage rates, which helps not only people who aspire to own a home but those who have difficulty sustaining the purchase of their home. We will be continuing with that action.
Will my hon. Friend reassure the House and all current council house dwellers that, should they wish to purchase their council houses after the next election, under a Conservative Government they will be able to do so? Will he contrast that with the wishy-washy commitments, if any, that we get from Labour Members and the fact that Labour councillors have for a very long time tried to deny council house tenants the right to buy their homes?
We shall not merely maintain the policy that allows local authority tenants to buy their homes; we are making it possible for housing association tenants to buy their homes on equivalent terms. That will be an opportunity that has been closed to many, and it is part of the extension of sustainable home ownership to which we are thoroughly committed.
Why does the Minister not admit that, far from helping home owners, the Government have created the worst crisis for home owners in this country's history? Millions of home owners are caught in negative equity, 1,000 home owners lose their homes through repossession every week and the market is suffering from a deep crisis of confidence. The Minister knows that the Government's policies have been a disaster for home owners. They have betrayed home owners, and home owners are rightly looking to Labour for a solution.
There is nothing like the Labour party when it comes to wallowing in other people's problems. The fact is that we still have more people moving into home ownership than are facing difficulties from home ownership. We intend to extend home ownership, which is part of our policy of achieving a sensible housing market in which home ownership, private renting and social housing have their proper roles to play. The Government have introduced that creative scheme. The Opposition have no creative policies except for the use of capital receipts, but they will not even tell us during what period they will be spent. I hope that the Leader of the Opposition will spell at least that out next week.