New Clause 1 — Independent advocacy: report

Part of Prohibition of Unpaid Internships – in the House of Commons at 2:30 pm on 13th May 2014.

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Photo of Damian Hinds Damian Hinds Conservative, East Hampshire 2:30 pm, 13th May 2014

I want to talk briefly about new clause 3 and new schedule 1, particularly because they relate to the private sector and one of the three sectors named under the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act 2013.

As Stella Creasy has said, this country, like the rest of the world, is undergoing a revolution in data in terms of their volume, richness and accessibility, and, in some ways, their associated risks. There is also a rapidly changing market in price comparison, and the hon. Lady has referred to some of the benefits that can accrue from that. The development of that market is not entirely benign and is certainly not without cost. There are two opposing forces: consumers’ ability to compare prices and services side by side tends to bring prices down, but the nature of the marketing—the branding land grab, the cost of advertising and particularly the pay-per-click auction model on the internet—tends to drive costs and therefore prices up. It is certainly true, however, that price comparison has great potential to make markets work better. I am very proud of everything the Government are doing with midata to help make that a reality.

One market that does not work at all is one of the three mentioned in the 2013 Act: retail banking current accounts. The actual cost to consumers of having a current account is, on average, £152 a year, but nobody we talk to, including informed consumers and even Members of this House, knows that. Whenever we talk about “free” banking, we should use inverted commas, because, of course, there is no such thing as free banking. If consumers could see how much they are actually paying, both explicitly in behavioural charges and implicitly through forgone interest, the retail banking market would work better because there would be more diversity and competition.

Critically and perhaps even more importantly—this touches on some of the new clauses and amendments we will debate later—the fact that people do not know how much their banking is costing them inhibits the development of new retail banking products. Such products include budgeting bank accounts—so-called jam jar accounts—for which people have to pay a fee, but through which they are much less likely to tip into debt, because they make it easier to budget money and also that tiny bit easier to save a small amount.

New clause 3 is not necessary because progress is already being made. The powers already exist.