Orders of the Day — Consumer Credit Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 1:30 pm on 9th June 2005.

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Photo of John Battle John Battle Labour, Leeds West 1:30 pm, 9th June 2005

I understand that the hon. Gentleman is on side, although he is a lawyer. The focus of our discussion must be to ensure that people are clear. The hon. Member for Wealden, who leads for the Opposition, said that businesses need to be clear. My point is that that applies also to the poor. Between us, I think that we have an agreement that can be clarified within the law. I suggest to my hon. Friend the Minister that that work needs to be done.

Those who lend to people without taking account of their ability to pay should be drawn into the same regulatory process as mortgage lenders and court fines. The Lord Chancellor has made it clear that if someone goes to the magistrates court because they have not paid their council tax for whatever reason, the fine, to be effective, must be proportionate to their income or their ability to pay. There is no point in giving someone who owes £135 in council tax a £500 fine, as they do not have the money to pay it. The Lord Chancellor proposed that fines should be proportionate. Why on earth does that not apply to the lenders? A responsible lending test should be built into the Bill, so that the lenders cannot get away with repeatedly lending to people without undertaking an assessment of their ability to pay back the loan. Such tests are included on mortgage forms, so why do we not include them on loan forms, especially as people are sometimes lent more than they are given for their mortgage?