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Mortgage Interest Payments

Part of Orders of the Day — Finance Bill – in the House of Commons at 8:45 pm on 15th July 1997.

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Photo of Mr Tim Collins Mr Tim Collins Conservative, Westmorland and Lonsdale 8:45 pm, 15th July 1997

I agree with the hon. Lady that there is a strong case for a subsidy of both home ownership and employment. That is why the previous Government introduced family credit. The argument that she uses to undermine the argument for subsidising home ownership could be played back to undermine all the remarks made by Labour Members against family credit. Family credit was targeted at subsidising people to find work. So were the changes introduced by the previous Government in national insurance. Those changes were far more effective than others set out elsewhere in the Budget. However, I can see, Mr. Lord, that you are asking me to return to the amendment. I was tempted off it by the hon. Lady.

I conclude with the clinching argument for the amendment. It explicitly links the change in MIRAS to interest rates. In so doing, it rightly puts the spotlight back where it should be, on the first and probably the most important decision that the Government have taken—the transfer of control of interest rate movements away from democratically elected Ministers accountable to the House to an unelected body, the Bank of England.

Those hon. Members who can receive Channel 5 may have seen last night a film entitled "Runaway Train". It was about a couple of hardened convicts played by Jon Voight and Eric Roberts. The runaway train was piling through the Alaskan landscape out of control. I forget the names of the two hardened criminals in charge of the train, but one was older and more seasoned—let us call him Eddie—and the other was younger and more inexperienced—let us call him Gordon. They were out of control. Every time that the signals told them to go on a different track, they crashed through. Whenever there was an obstacle in the way, the train crashed through, splinters and branches everywhere. People in its way were mown down, limbs strewn left, right and centre.

The Government's management of interest rates has created a runaway train. The amendment, modest though it may be, would put something of a brake on it by providing that, until interest rates are brought back down, the Bank of England cannot have what it wants: a reduction in MIRAS. I hope that the Committee accepts the amendment before we all get run over by the runaway train.