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Mortgage Interest Payments

Part of Orders of the Day — Finance Bill – in the House of Commons at 8:15 pm on 15th July 1997.

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Photo of Mr Tim Collins Mr Tim Collins Conservative, Westmorland and Lonsdale 8:15 pm, 15th July 1997

I greatly enjoyed the speech of the hon. Member for Croydon, Central (Mr. Davies), for two reasons. He said that the Prime Minister is a friend of home owners. I suspect that the only home owner of whom the Prime Minister is a sincere friend is any home owner who can stump up 675,000 readies to buy his luxury home in Islington.

The other point that I greatly enjoyed was the hon. Gentleman's statement that the shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer should be criticised for not commenting on interest rate movements. When my hon. Friend the Member for Buckingham (Mr. Bercow) pointed out that the present Chancellor failed to comment on any interest rate movement throughout the past five years, the hon. Gentleman said that politicians should not jump up and down and comment about interest rate movements. A little consistency in his speech would have helped.

Like me, the hon. Member for Workington (Mr. Campbell-Savours) is a Cumbria Member. He said that the economy is palpably overheating and had been clearly overheating for some months, so everyone knew that tax increases would be necessary, whoever formed the Government after the general election. People who believe that the economy is overheating must have been confused by the Labour party's constant references throughout the past year or 18 months to the idea that we were still in a recession.

If it were palpably obvious that the UK economy was overheating, I wonder why it was that, whenever figures came out showing that interest rates were moving in the right direction and, in particular, that unemployment was coming down, the Labour party's reaction was not to say, "That is further proof that the economy is overheating", but, "Those figures are all fiddled. Unemployment is not falling at all." How is that consistent with this palpable vision of an overheating economy?

A point with which the hon. Member for Workington might agree is that, whatever the state of the economy in London and the south-east, it is very difficult to sustain the case that the economy is overheating in our part of the country. He knows that I am fortunate enough to represent one of the more prosperous parts of Cumbria, but we both know Barrow—it is not far from our constituencies—and he would agree that, if one told people there that the UK economy was overheating and needed to be damped down, one would be greeted with a hoarse laugh. There is still great unemployment in the area, and there is no real evidence of anything other than the first rosy fingers of dawn rising over the horizon for economic growth. It is difficult to sustain the case that the economy is overheating and that the first action of an incoming Government must be to wallop £13 billion of tax increases on to that economy.