The Rt. Hon. Sir John Major KG CH

Prime Minister of Great Britain and Northern Ireland 1990-1997

1990Chancellor (1989-1990)

Mr Major’s Parliamentary Answer on Mortgage Rates – 7 June 1990

Below is the text of Mr Major’s response on Mortgage Rates made on 7th June 1990 in the House of Commons.

Mr. Wilson To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer when he will next meet the Council of Mortgage Lenders to discuss mortgage rates.

Mr. Sedgemore To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer when he will next meet the Council of Mortgage Lenders to discuss mortgage rates.

Mr. Major I have no present plans to do so, although I recently met the chairman of the organisation, Mr. Birrell.

Mr. Wilson Does the Chancellor accept that the smug levity with which the Economic Secretary answered the previous question about mortgage rates paid scant respect to the hundreds of thousands of people who are suffering profoundly because of the Chancellor’s one-club policy on interest rates? Does he accept that, according to the Building Societies Association, over 400,000 families in Britain are subject to legal action for recovery of arrears because of the mounting problems of interest and mortgage rates? Does he have any message of comfort to offer those people, many of them in my constituency, or is what he has to offer represented only by the kind of rubbish that we heard from the Economic Secretary?

Mr. Major There was neither rubbish nor smug levity in what my hon. Friend said. If the hon. Gentleman consults the Council of Mortgage Lenders or the Building Societies Association, they will tell him without reservation that mortgage arrears account for only a small amount of repossessions and that the principal problems that cause repossessions and other difficulties are marriage break-ups and other marital concerns. They have repeatedly made that clear, and Mr. Mark Boleat of the Building Societies Association did so yet again in recent days.

Mr. Sedgemore When the Chancellor is told by his Permanent Secretary that 70,000 mortgage holders are six months or more in arrears does he say to himself, “How could I conceivably have been so incompetent, so ignorant and so irresponsible as to ruin the lives of so many people?” – or does he not care?

Mr. Major I understand the concern of people with mortgage difficulties. The hon. Gentleman, who phrased his question with his usual charm, should bear it in mind that the number of borrowers in serious difficulties remains a very tiny proportion, as traditionally they have been. He will be aware, because I know that he takes an interest in this matter, that the Council of Mortgage Lenders recently issued all sorts of indications of precisely how the lending societies can help people who are in mortgage difficulties. The societies are doing so and I hope that they will continue to do so.