My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Noakes, and the noble Lord, Lord Newby, for their comments on the Statement. On this occasion, I am particularly grateful to the noble Baroness, who both prefaced and summed up her remarks by saying that she supported the Bank of England's initiative. I will endeavour to answer her requests for reassurance as fully as I can.
The principle is important. I understand the general anxieties expressed by the noble Lord, Lord Newby, but I thought that I had made it clear in my Statement, as I will seek to do when I refer specifically to the questions asked by the noble Baroness, that the Bank is taking scrupulous care to ensure that the banks, not the taxpayer, will take responsibility for the situation in which they find themselves. The Bank of England will ensure that the collateral that is provided is in excess of the resources made available to the banks in order to ensure that there cannot be a bill at the end for the taxpayer. That is the principle on which the scheme will operate. In articulating that obvious anxiety, which the Government share and which the Bank of England has taken care in its proposals to allay, the noble Lord should accept that the risk will be taken by the banks and their shareholders and not by the British taxpayer. I emphasise that point particularly as it is the principle that underpins the scheme.
I also hear what the noble Lord says about the mortgage market and the difficulties that individuals are in. That is exactly why my right honourable friend the Chancellor is holding meetings tomorrow with the mortgage lenders. He will discuss with them the impact of the tightening position on credit, particularly as it affects those on fixed-term mortgages that are coming to an end. It is expected that these discussions will be fruitful on how we can enhance protection for banks and building societies so that they can offer various strategies to mortgage lenders to help to minimise repossession. The noble Lord will recognise that repossession levels are low in comparison with the housing crisis in 1991. Nevertheless, they are increasing and any increase is worrying. It is important to have strategies that reduce the likelihood of repossession. I want to assure the noble Lord on that.
The noble Baroness asked me a number of questions and made a number of statements, one or two of which I felt were a shade controversial. I do not accept that there was dithering over Northern Rock. As we discussed at the time—