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Mortgage Interest Payments

Part of Orders of the Day — Finance Bill – in the House of Commons at 9:15 pm on 15th July 1997.

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The hon. Member for Grantham and Stamford (Mr. Davies) also contributed to the Second Reading debate. Alone among Opposition Members, he has been honest enough to say what the Opposition would like to do about MIRAS. I shall quote two comments that he made in his speech that evening. When asked by the Economic Secretary to the Treasury what the Opposition would have us do, first he said that he would not reduce VAT on fuel, because that would be a perverse thing to do. It is making an unusual and warped value judgment to suggest that reducing charges for the most vulnerable members of our society would be perverse.
More important for tonight's debate, when the hon. Member for Grantham and Stamford was asked about MIRAS—the next Opposition Member to speak may choose to agree or rebut, criticise or congratulate—he said: I would have got rid of mortgage interest relief altogether."— [Official Report, 10 July 1997; Vol. 297, c. 1120.] That is a telling statement of the feelings of many Conservative Members; thus far, it has been the only statement by any Opposition Member on what they would have us do. Until such a claim has been rebutted or clarified, I, for one, will take that as a statement of what the Conservatives would have done if they had been in government.
The hon. Member for Ashford (Mr. Green) made what seemed, at least to me, an unusual comment—he mentioned Shelter's briefing on the Budget. It is unusual for a Conservative Member to compliment Shelter, as the previous Government did so much to bolster its business. That is one of the businesses and organisations to which the previous Government did bring increased funding and increased business—because of their housing policy, the number of repossessions, the amount of negative equity and the difficulty caused to what have been described tonight as "the working poor".
We all know the essential details of the measure reducing MIRAS to 10 per cent. It has been welcomed by the Confederation of British Industry and others because it helps to place our public finances on a sound footing. It helps to create a system of stable economics. It removes once and for all the concept of boom and bust—that has been a litmus test of economic policy—and I am reassured by the fact that it prevents overheating in the property market. If we are talking about the working poor, as the hon. Member for Teignbridge (Mr. Nicholls) did tonight, that fact in itself is of great benefit to those at that lower end of the property market.