I hope that we can address that important matter in Committee, although we must be clear about whether such a test could be legally enforceable. Several aspects of the Bill are worrying because the court will be left to decide where boundaries lie, but there are clearly practices on which we want to clamp down, so we will need to consider in Committee how best to achieve that.
According to research carried out for the DTI and announced this week, 9 per cent. of people spend more than half their income on credit repayments. According to Credit Action, the average amount owed by every man, woman and child in the UK is approximately £18,000. Research by Datamonitor reveals that consumer borrowing for each adult in the UK through credit cards, motor and retail finance deals, overdrafts and unsecured personal loans has risen to more than £4,000, which is an increase of 10 per cent. in just one year and almost 50 per cent. since 2000.
Although growing debt is an international issue, it has risen faster here than elsewhere. According to the Bank of England, household debt is now 140 per cent. of aggregate income, which is above the level in the United States and most European countries. Indeed, the Bank also confirms that UK household debt is rising at 15 per cent. per year, which is more than in the United States and most European countries. Against that background, it is hardly surprising that the Bank has warned of the consequences of further borrowing by saying:
"The continuing rapid build up of debt by many borrowers . . . may be building up vulnerabilities."