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Oversight Committee

Part of Financial Services Bill (Money) (No. 2) – in the House of Commons at 8:00 pm on 10th December 2012.

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Photo of Gareth Thomas Gareth Thomas Shadow Minister (Cabinet Office), Party Chair, Co-operative Party 8:00 pm, 10th December 2012

I am grateful for this opportunity to take part in the debate tonight. I echo some of the concerns that have been expressed by my hon. Friends the Members for Bishop Auckland (Helen Goodman) and for Nottingham East (Chris Leslie). I hope that the Minister will see his response to the debate as an opportunity to convince the House that Lords amendments 25 and 78 are not part of an attempt to put off action on payday lenders or on lending deserts.

I want to offer the House the example of the community of Thamesmead and Abbey Wood. It is a community of about 55,000 people in south-east London. The houses there were built in the 1960s in response to what was then seen as London’s housing crisis. There is no bank branch in the whole of that community. Not one of the big five banks has a branch there. The nearest branch is 30 to 45 minutes away by public transport. This is not for want of trying by a whole series of people to convince the big five banks to establish themselves in the area. An excellent organisation, the Thamesmead Trust, has tried to persuade the banks to set up there. The former Member of Parliament for Erith and Thamesmead, John Austin, has also tried many times, and the present Member, my hon. Friend Teresa Pearce, has made a number of efforts as well, but there is still no bank in the area.

The community of Thamesmead and Abbey Wood is clearly not the only area without a bank, as my hon. Friend the Member for Bishop Auckland illustrated, but I worry that many of the lending deserts in this country are not yet out of the closet, if I can use that term. We do not have the necessary information to chronicle by postcode the lending that is taking place to businesses and to individual consumers. As my hon. Friend the Member for Nottingham East said, many of the banks in question are established in the United States, where they have to provide those data. As I said in an earlier intervention, President Obama supported calls for business lending to be publicised, on a postcode basis, so that people could see where lending was taking place and where it was not. That provision has now been written into American law.

We have called not only for the publication of lending data by postcode but for an obligation to be placed on banks to lend into every community. If they are not prepared to do that themselves, there should be an expectation that they will do so through community development finance institutions, through charity banks or through credit unions, but the obligation should be on the banks to demonstrate that they were providing lending into communities through those alternative sources if they were not prepared to do so directly themselves.