I could not agree more with my hon. Friend. I would have thought that this wonderful Government of ours must be looking at such a levy—and if they are not, I am sure that they will do so immediately. We have got to do something about this problem. Yes, some might argue that we are saving people from themselves, but in this case, we have to do that. If people are in dire need of a loan to see them through to the end of the week or month, they should not be charged two or three times the value of that loan.
Of course, it is not just a question of whether the loan is repaid. People may reach a stage at which they are unable to repay it, and charges will then be levied for non-payment. The loan will be rearranged, another fee will be added, and they will end up paying five or six times the amount that they originally borrowed, or perhaps even more. That cannot be right. In any sort of capitalist system—or whatever system we have—there is a need for profit, but there is no need to extract money in a way that almost constitutes extortion. Someone who arrived in this world for the first time and observed that it was possible to charge such amounts of interest, or indeed—let me be blunt—to steal such amounts of money from people, would say that those who did that should be locked up. We must do something about it.
As well as the people who cannot repay their loans, there are people—although not so many—who are addicted to borrowing money, not just from payday loan companies but from, for instance, store cards that they can use in shops. They must be given more access to advice, and restrictions must be placed on the amount that they can borrow. If people are such a credit risk that they must be charged enormous amounts of interest because companies believe that that is the only way in which they can get their money back, we should ask whether we are helping those people by giving them the money.
A number of Members have rightly pointed out that, in this day and age, people need to be able to gain access to money online and from their mobile phones. Members may tell me that I am a little bit old-fashioned, but I am not certain that the ease with which credit can be obtained at any time of day or night, and regardless of people’s state of mind, is helpful. I think that it merely drives people deeper and deeper into debt.
I respect where the Government are coming from. When I last spoke about this issue, I went for the payday companies big time, and I still have them in my sights because I believe that they are making enormous profits at the expense of the very poorest members of society, but I also understand that there is a role for them. Nevertheless, they must be controlled. Their wings must be clipped.