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I shall deal later with targeted benefits. Whether by accident or design, I am glad that the hon. Gentleman admits that it is now a targeted benefit. It helps home ownership, which is a good thing; and at the moment it particularly helps home owners on relatively low incomes. That seems to me an ideal subsidy.
The CML goes on to make the point that previous cuts in mortgage tax relief took place against a background of rapidly falling interest rates, and that the move proposed by the Government will mean an increase of 1.25 per cent. in mortgage rates for lower-income households. The hon. Member for Dudley, North quoted the deputy director general of the CML, Peter Williams. What he said in full was:
The Government should understand that further cuts in mortgage tax relief do not represent a zero-cost option. Ill considered action on mortgage tax relief based on short-term expediency of releasing funds for other programme priorities is likely to damage home owners and the housing market indiscriminately.