asked the Secretary of State for the Environment what rise took place in house prices for each of the last four quarters.
Seasonally adjusted, the rise in average house prices in the United Kingdom in four quarters beginning October 1978 was 7 per cent., 5½ per cent., 6½ per cent. and 6½ per cent. respectively. The fourth quarter 1979 figure will be available on 4 February.
Bearing in mind the increase in house prices, will the Minister comment on the plight of council house tenants in Labour-controlled district councils who will have to wait upon the enactment of our legislation before they are able either to buy their council houses or gain the maximum discounts available?
:I agree with my hon. Friend, and I hope that, in view of the fact that the House has now given its assent to the Second Reading of the Housing Bill by a substantial majority, those councils which are not now selling council houses will consider doing so. Otherwise, as my hon. Friend said, Labour authorities will be ensuring that tenants who buy in their area will have to pay substantially more as a result of their not having sold earlier.
Does the Minister recall the promise given by his right hon. Friend the Prime Minister that mortgages would be pegged at 9½ per cent., given the election of a Conservative Government? Will he say when it is likely that the present mortgage level of 15 per cent. will be reduced? Will he also explain how people who are prospective and present owner-occupiers have any chance of finding the massive mortgage repayments which they are expected to pay?
The hon. Gentleman referred to prospective owner-occupiers. Any measure that would result in an artificial reduction in the mortgage interest rate, by cutting the rate which is being paid to investors, would only ensure that there is less money available for the building societies to lend.
Bearing in mind these massive increases in house prices, and the increases in solicitors' and estate agents' costs, will the hon. Gentleman put pressure on the Chancellor of the Exchequer to raise the exemption limit for stamp duty in his Budget?
As the hon. Gentleman knows, that is a matter for my right hon. and learned Friend the Chancellor. No doubt he will pursue the matter with him.