All claimants will be offered a support for mortgage interest loan paid at the same rate that is currently available as part of their benefit entitlement. There will therefore be no impact on their income. Claimants will pay back the loan only on the sale or transfer of the property, when the loan will be recovered from any available equity.
My constituent, who is registered blind yet has paid into the system all his working life, asks how it can be fair that tenants continue, quite rightly, to get support now, but 100,000 or more people like himself are losing that interest support with their mortgages. It is not good enough to say that they will get it back at the end. This is affecting people now. People are worried about their futures and worried about their incomes now. It is not good enough.
Mortgage support is being offered at exactly the same rate as currently. The only difference is that it is now being deferred as a loan recoverable against any equity available in the house should it be sold in the future. Current participants in the scheme should see absolutely no difference unless and until they sell or transfer the house, at which point the taxpayer will recover the support offered.
We have to recognise that we are dealing with support for people who are accumulating what is often a very significant capital asset, and it seems only right that when equity becomes available the taxpayer is able to recover some or all of the support. There has been significant communication on the scheme with the people who are participating in it, and that is continuing. There will be between four and six written communications, and people will be invited to call a telephone number where they can obtain information from a third-party adviser before we get to April, when the scheme comes into play. I am confident that the people who are participating in the scheme at the moment will have enough information. Certainly, large numbers are making a decision either way at the moment.
I have been contacted by a number of constituents about this issue, including a Mr Milne, a veteran who is surviving just now on a meagre state pension. He fears that this change will force him to sell his house or to have it repossessed. What assessment has the Minister made of the impact of this change, particularly on pensioners?
There is absolutely no reason for anybody to fear forced sale or repossession of a house, not least because the scheme is specifically designed to avoid exactly that. If Members have specific cases where constituents have concerns about the operation of the scheme, I will be more than happy to take them up. If the hon. Lady writes to me about that case, I will provide a response.