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

As always, my hon. Friend makes a valuable point. Again, the issue must be dealt with through the responsible lending approach that must be incorporated in the legislation.

On the alternative disputes resolution procedure, my right hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, West made some valuable and important points about people's engagement with the legal process. We must be clear that the most vulnerable are often those who either instinctively do not want to go through a court procedure or are not skilled in grievance and complaints procedures. In some cases, people simply would not know how to do so. There is a danger that, unless consumers know very early on that there is a clear and free system of redress that can be used if they feel that they are being unfairly treated, we could lose the benefit of the Bill. Many such people would not think of taking action against the very companies that exploit them, as they would feel under-confident, and under-equipped and under-qualified to do so. I emphasise to the Minister that means of redress must be made clear, easy to use and free.

The Bill can play an important role in reducing the sum total of misery caused by poverty and the cost incurred by the general community. We are discussing the impact of debt not only on individuals, but on the health service—many people take up GPs' valuable time with stress-related problems, which are often associated with poverty and, in some specific cases, with debt. We have heard examples of debt leading to suicide, and such cases impact on both the community and services at large. I welcome the Bill, which will benefit the whole community as well as the individuals concerned.

A number of improvements could be made in other areas to compliment the Bill. The Minister is not responsible for all those areas, but I must mention the reform of the social fund, which would stop so many people having to take out small but potentially expensive loans, and the need for efficient benefit administration, because inefficient administration often forces people to take out loans. In combination with other reforms in our welfare support system, the Bill will make a meaningful contribution to reducing poverty and the problems that arise from it in our community.