Chris - "they were repossessed during the many recessions under Thatcher and Major."
Please don't try to rewrite history.
There was only one recession, caused by Black Monday in the US stock market. It affected most nations having close financial ties with the USA, not just the UK, and it was not caused by the Thatcher government's economic policies at all.
The UK balance of payments was restored within a few years under the Major government and remained pretty much in balance until Gordon the Moron got his hands on the purse strings, when the balance of payments went into a consistent nosedive and never showed any signs of recovering until the Coalition took over and pulled back on the joystick.