Backbench Business — High-cost Credit

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 1:49 pm on 5th September 2013.

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Photo of Tracey Crouch Tracey Crouch Conservative, Chatham and Aylesford 1:49 pm, 5th September 2013

I agree with my hon. Friend—I will talk about debt advice later in my speech.

We have heard a lot about charges for people who go into unauthorised bank overdrafts. I was recently charged for going into my authorised overdraft, which I found incredibly shocking. I did not know the bank could do that, but it did. The charge was the equivalent of taking out a £100 loan from Wonga for five days. I can see why people turn to payday lenders if they sometimes get charged by their bank for going into an authorised overdraft.

We need to be aware of people’s problems when it comes to debt. We should not judge people for getting into debt or for trying to get themselves out of it. We also need to be aware of the scale of the problem. I have two wards of deprivation in my constituency, and there is an increase in the number of people turning to payday lenders. The local citizens advice bureau tells me that the average debt in Medway is £43,000. It also tells me that people from more affluent areas are turning to payday lenders for the reasons the hon. Member for Walthamstow has outlined—they find it easier to meet their everyday needs by turning to those lenders.

When used correctly, those loans can be a help. When someone needs that short-term boost—when something is broken and they need to borrow £100—it is easier for them to go to a payday lender than it is to go to their bank. We need to be clear that such loans serve a purpose. However, problems arise when they are not used correctly. That is why we need to address problems such as rollovers, which the hon. Lady and the hon. Member for Sheffield Central have mentioned.

We need to be concerned about the proliferation of shops on our high streets. It is incredibly easy for the people to get the credit they need. Thank goodness payday lending companies were not around when I was in debt. Nothing would have stopped me going in to borrow £200 to get what I wanted. I have learned my lesson, but it took a long time to do so.

On the positive measures we could take, it is important that we consider sharing data. Real-time data are incredibly important. Currently, someone who has taken a Wonga loan in the morning can go to the Money Shop or Cash Converters or the next place on the high street in the afternoon and get money out. Nobody knows how much they are getting out on any given day. We also need to look at restricting access to online credit services overnight. Many years ago, I lay awake at night worrying about debt. When people come to see me, they tell me that they cannot sleep and are hiding from their bills. They know they can go online at 2 am, when they are not thinking straight, and access instant relief to their fears. We should look carefully at that.

We need to look at supporting our credit unions. I am a saver at both Medway credit union and Kent Savers credit union. Hon. Members should do all we can to try to help to promote them so that they are recognised in the high street. That is incredibly important. If that means using flexible business rates so that credit unions are encouraged to go into the bigger shops on the high street so they have that presence, we should do that.

Finally, debt advice is incredibly important. The Government are doing a great deal to promote free debt advice. I have worked to keep the Insolvency Service in Medway. It was under threat, but was saved thanks to the campaign. We need to recognise that there are experts who can help to inform people who are finding it very difficult to get out of the situation they have got themselves into.

We must not judge the entire payday lending industry by the bad mistakes we read about and hear about in debates such as this one. We need to recognise that it plays a role in our wider credit industry. As my hon. Friend the Member for Thurrock has said, we are at a crossroads. We need to ensure we go down the right route.