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Earl Russell: My Lords, I thank the Minister for that reply. I did not want to appear ungenerous by not mentioning the various concessions which have been made in these regulations. I welcome them and I would not wish to imply otherwise. The Minister said that 43 per cent. of new borrowers are taking out mortgage insurance. That was, I think, based on a limited sample, but I will not argue about the sum. What I will say, if I may take a line from the late Lord Home of the Hirsel, whom I shall miss, is that his whisky bottle is not even half full; it is well under half full; it is 57 per cent. empty. That is a significant figure.

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish: My Lords, I was making the point that the society which mentioned the 40 per cent. was saying that that was before the current arrangements were even on the horizon. So it is not fair to say that the other 60 per cent. or 57 per cent.—I am not sure where the noble Earl got the figure of 43 per cent. from—will now be left adrift. I am talking about new borrowers. I am suggesting that the new borrowers of a year ago were taking it out at that rate. Perhaps I may suggest that they will be taking it out at a much greater rate from 1st October.

Earl Russell: My Lords, I take the Minister's point and I thank him for it. However, it means that the rate we shall reach at the end remains a matter of conjecture.

18 Oct 1995 : Column 818

We are both betting. At least one of us, and possibly both of us, will be wrong. We shall have to find out which.

I take the noble Lord's point about the uneven nature of the safety net as it was before. He left out one of the main reasons for that—there was no help in the first 16 weeks. But to say that a net has holes in it is not a sufficient excuse for throwing it away. Anyone who watches fishermen during the summer around the fishing ports will know that that is not their normal reasoning. If your net has holes in it, you mend it.

I noticed that the Minister did not engage with my argument that his proposals will not introduce a real net saving. He repeated, as I thought he would, his confidence in insurance. I shall offer him one more word of warning. Do not try to turn a profit-making business into a social service. It really does not work. It is not the nature of the animal. It is not what it is meant to do.

But in the end I think that we must both stand or fall by the question of who is right on the argument of saving, which brings me to my final question. Are we to assume that this, like many, but not all, other measures introduced by the Department of Social Security, will be monitored? It will be a very difficult job to decide exactly how to monitor it because the effect of repossession on employment will take quite some skill to calculate. I hope that the department will commission academic research on the effect of these proposals on the department's budget and that in one year's, two years' or three years' time we shall meet again across the Chamber and we shall be able to find out who is right. In the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw my Motion.

Motion, by leave, withdrawn.

Queen Mary and Westfield College Bill

Reported from the Select Committee without amendment; Bill not to be recommitted to an Unopposed Bill Committee.

        House adjourned at thirteen minutes past seven o'clock.


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