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Market Interest Rates

Volume 550: debated on Tuesday 11 September 2012

My hon. Friend is right: low interest rates are secured by credible, economic and fiscal policy, and delivered by the independent Bank of England. Sir Mervyn King has been an outstanding Governor of the Bank, and has helped set monetary policy to support our economy through one of its most challenging periods in modern history. He is serving his second and final term as Governor, and will retire on 30 June 2013.

I can tell the House today that I have decided that the appointment of his successor will be conducted through fair and open competition. For the first time in history, the post will be advertised and the advertisement will appear in the press later this week. As with Mervyn King, we are seeking a Governor of intelligence, independence and integrity, and we intend to announce the successful candidate by the end of the year.

I thank the Chancellor for that response, and I welcome his announcement.

Those looking for a home in my Winchester constituency want to know that their Conservative council is building new council homes for the first time in 25 years. Those looking to buy in the private sector want to know that they can get on the housing ladder and get a mortgage, with some certainty that they can repay the money over the years to come. Will the Chancellor reassure my constituents that, unlike the Labour party, he understands that even a small rise in interest rates will have a punishing effect on family budgets?

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. Low interest rates are crucial to the recovery, and a loss of confidence in the UK’s ability to pay its way in the world will lead to an increase in market interest rates, an increase in mortgage costs for millions of families, and, of course, an increase in borrowing costs for businesses. It would be a disaster, and that is why the Government do not take the path advocated by the Labour party. We also want to ensure that low interest rates are felt by families, which is why the funding for lending scheme announced jointly with the Bank of England is already leading to banks offering cheaper mortgages. The combination of our Firstbuy and NewBuy schemes is also helping families to buy their first home.

Many people do not have access to those kinds of interest rates, and are depending on high street, rip-off schemes such as Wonga and so on. What is the Chancellor doing to protect ordinary families who cannot get loans and who need to depend on rip-off merchants?

We have toughened up the regulation of consumer credit, and next year there will be a tough new consumer agency, the financial conduct authority, which we are creating in order to deal with the bad advice that is sometimes provided to families. Indeed, Martin Wheatley, its chief executive, gave an interesting speech about that last week, and about the impact of sales commissions and the like on the provision of bad advice and bad products to families. We are taking action to do that, but as I said, the worst possible thing for all those families, and everyone else in the country, would be a sharp rise in interest rates, which a loss of confidence in the Government’s fiscal policies would bring about.