A Council of Mortgage Lenders report in 2011 suggests that, as of the first quarter of that year, 827,000 UK households were in negative equity. That includes nearly 300,000 in the north of England. The organisation also reported that there were 36,200 repossessions that year—the lowest annual total since 2007.
In its report on home ownership, Standard & Poor’s says that rates of negative equity in the north-west and the north-east are four times higher than those in London. Obviously those areas were disproportionately hit by the Government’s cuts, and unemployment is rising. There are hard-pressed families in these regions struggling to pay their mortgages. What help is the Minister going to give them?
I remind the hon. Gentleman that negative equity becomes a problem if people cannot pay their mortgage. Mortgages are affordable at the moment because of the fiscal and financial policies that this coalition Government are pursuing. Interest payments on mortgages are at the lowest level as a proportion of total income since records began. I invite him to consider how many repossessions in the north of England would result if we had the bond rates of the Italians or the Spanish, and therefore how important it is for this Government to remain steadfast on their fiscal programme.
I hope to be in order, Mr Speaker, by pointing out that despite what my hon. Friend the Member for Hyndburn (Graham Jones) said about the north of England, Lewisham has the fourth highest rate of repossessions in England. There are 17,000 homeless people on our housing waiting list. What advice would the Minister give to those of my constituents given the misery that they are facing through losing their homes—their most precious possession?
I am a tolerant and obliging fellow and I wanted to hear the evidence, but there is nothing to which the Minister should respond on the Floor of the House, because the question relates to the north of England and he did not expand it. However, the right hon. Lady’s observations are on the record.