The question that this debate is making patently clear is whether it is the responsibility of the state to look after those who cannot look after themselves. It has also been made patently clear in the brilliant opening speech of Chris Evans and in other contributions that there are many different practical and relatively immediate measures that could be introduced to address the problem of high-cost credit. They include restricting advertising budgets, implementing a greater degree of financial education, doing more work on shared data, addressing the question of interest rates and improving debt advice. I endorse the comments of the Public Accounts Committee and urge the Financial Conduct Authority to do more, as requested.
I believe that everyone agrees that the Archbishop of Canterbury was right when, in July, he championed the cause of credit unions and criticised the payday loan companies. He was right to say that we needed to “compete” the payday lenders out of the market. I welcome his comments, but I would argue that this debate has shown that although we all support credit unions, they are not necessarily the mechanism by which we will succeed in competing the payday lenders out of the market.
There is cross-party agreement on specific measures that can be taken to address the problem of high-cost credit, but I suggest that the mechanism by which people ought ultimately to borrow on a long-term basis is local community banks. They have all the flexibility, the clout and the borrowing power of a bank, as well as all the sympathetic community approach of a credit union, and the amalgamation of all those qualities will produce the best way forward.