Banking (Special Provisions) Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 1:00 pm on 21st February 2008.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Lord Desai Lord Desai Labour 1:00 pm, 21st February 2008

I am not quite sure that I agree with my noble friend Lord Whitty, which distresses me very much. The noble Lord, Lord Newby, has phrased his Amendment No. 5 with sufficient care in terms of risk minimising so as to leave the people in charge of Northern Rock with a broad guide, within which they can then do whatever they like. Yet I do not think that they should be inspired to do something that prudent banks should not do; they should certainly not start giving sub-prime mortgages just because the bank happens to have been nationalised. That would be a really bad thing.

In the debate on the gracious Speech I pointed out that we have created a housing sector that is a monster by giving it tax advantages and treating it unlike any other asset. We are then surprised that there is a housing shortage. We really have to wean ourselves off giving mortgages to people who do not have the capacity to service them. I do not think that it is the responsibility of Northern Rock to reform society or the housing sector. It has got into enough problems, so it has to behave itself. Within that, it can do either of these things: draw itself down, or, perhaps, maintain a constant size—a strategy that would be perfectly possible by granting a new mortgage only if it has retired another, or something like that. I like the amendment tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Newby, because it correctly formulates how the management should behave.