Orders of the Day — Consumer Credit Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 3:18 pm on 9th June 2005.

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Photo of Adrian Bailey Adrian Bailey Labour, West Bromwich West 3:18 pm, 9th June 2005

I could not agree more. I shall certainly join the credit union that has just started up in my local area to demonstrate that people need to save and that it is a worthwhile savings institution. It can play a vital role in combating poverty as well as providing loans for people who are not in poverty.

Like other hon. Members, I wish to pay tribute to the role of my local citizens advice bureau, which dealt with £18 million worth of debt problems in 2004. It is at the forefront of efforts to tackle the issue, and its work in alleviating problems experienced by people locally is to be applauded. The experience it has gained in undertaking that work provides MPs and ultimately the Government with invaluable evidence on the ground of the way in which our policies are working and the need to amend legislation to prevent problems from arising.

Various issues that need to be addressed by the Bill have been mentioned by hon. Members, and I shall highlight one or two. Aggressive marketing and responsible lending are important issues. When my stepson was 18, he returned with a group of people from a Club 18–30 holiday in Ibiza to the local airport in the early hours of the morning. The group was met by credit card salesmen, if they can be called that, promoting credit cards to young people who do not have any experience of financial management and are somewhat high from their holiday experience. They need money, and are easy prey for people deploying unscrupulous techniques. Happily, or perhaps unhappily, my stepson came home and we made sure that the credit card was soon dealt with. I am concerned, however, that if young people do not have parents skilled in financial management, they could be sucked into a spiral of debt at an early age without sufficient earnings or the ability to cope with the problem.

The issue of credit cheques has been well argued by other hon. Members, so I shall not labour it, but I emphasise the point about responsible lending. Let me quote evidence from Centrepoint, the charity dealing with the homeless, which says that 20 per cent. of its residents—many of these people do not have a job, and they do not even have homes—have been targeted by credit card companies. There must be means in the legislation to place an obligation on the companies involved to target their marketing more responsibly. I agree with my right hon. Friend John Battle that the concept of a responsible lending test needs to be embodied somewhere in the Bill.

Other issues that need to be addressed include payment protection insurance. All too often, insurance is sold to people who cannot benefit from it. The worst example that I have seen involved a couple with £77,000 of debt who took out £44,000 worth of insurance. They had mental health problems and would never have qualified to receive any payments in the first place.

Debt management companies are another group that needs to be subject to some sort of regulation and testing. Often, people who have gone to the citizens advice bureau for support in dealing with their financial problems have already been to debt management companies. In some cases, the advice and actions of such companies have compounded the debt problems of those individuals. The legislation must contain provisions to deal with that issue.