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Mortgage Interest Payments

Part of Orders of the Day — Finance Bill – in the House of Commons at 9:30 pm on 15th July 1997.

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Photo of Tim Boswell Tim Boswell Shadow Spokesperson (Business, Innovation and Skills), Shadow Spokesperson (Business, Innovation and Skills), Shadow Spokesperson (Trade and Industry) 9:30 pm, 15th July 1997

This has been an interesting debate, and merely reinforces the official Opposition's determination to press the amendment to a vote.

I will deal first with the contributions of Labour Members, which have contained two themes. Two new Members, the hon. Members for Croydon, Central (Mr. Davies) and for Eastwood (Mr. Murphy), emphasised the importance of stability, as did the Financial Secretary—they were obviously all on message. That concept is rather like motherhood and apple pie, and one from which I cannot dissent, although three successive interest rate rises and a series of unpromised and uncovenanted tax increases on a large scale in the space of eight weeks does not seem to suggest a Government bent on stability.

Labour Members also showed some MIRAS scepticism. The hon. Member for Workington (Mr. Campbell-Savours), who has been in the House a long time, said that everyone knew that Labour would breach its election pledge. He characteristically suggested that there might have been a conspiracy between Members of the two Front Benches to produce a collective guilty secret. Neither my constituents nor I saw any sign of that being offered to us during the election campaign.

The hon. Member for Dudley, North (Mr. Cranston), who outed himself as an opponent of MIRAS, said that he was not able to include this measure in his election address due to inadequate space—the only Labour election address in history that could have been a little longer so as to be a little more informative. His theme was that we all knew that MIRAS was coming to an end, and so it should. He implied that we should not take too seriously the matters of trust invoked by his leader.

The hon. Member for Northavon (Mr. Webb) made an interesting contribution. He and my hon. Friend the Member for Ashford (Mr. Green) touched on the possibility of restructuring, which was open to the Government and could be in subsequent Budgets. The Government could have introduced proposals, but merely to make a cut is a major breach of faith.

I greatly enjoyed the contributions of my hon. Friends, which contained two underlying themes. They were concerned about the home owner, and not merely about Islington man or those at the top who have cleared more than £0.5 million in a particular sort of windfall which is not being taxed under the windfall levy. According to the Financial Secretary, such windfalls will not be available to any persons bent on making money out of their houses in the future. She said that the housing market was overheating and that action had to be taken, so people will not make a profit on their houses in the future. My hon. Friends emphasised their passionate commitment to home ownership at all levels of income and for people from all walks of life.

I hope that the Government will take note of my hon. Friends' concern about the breach of trust, which goes all the way up to the Prime Minister. It is not possible to construe the words delivered by the Prime Minister to Labour's housing conference in any other way than that MIRAS was safe in his hands. Now we know better.

In the Financial Secretary's brief remarks—she read out her brief, which Ministers have done since time immemorial—she pointed to alleged deficiencies in the drafting of the amendment. As a matter of fact, we did speak to our amendment. Nevertheless, she was unable to answer the serious questions put to her. For example, my hon. Friend the Member for Ashford asked the Financial Secretary to answer a specific question: which home owners would benefit? As she did not appear to understand that perfectly simple question, I asked it again, but I am still waiting for an answer.

What has become increasingly clear during the debate, however, is the Government's approach to taxation. The theme was initiated by the Financial Secretary the other day, when she said that pensioners would welcome the Budget, and that pension funds would benefit from it. That theme was taken up today by the hon. Member for Croydon, Central (Mr. Davies), who said that the measures were for the good of home owners. This is not the first occasion on which Labour Governments have said that taxes—