Why does this Bill matter? It matters because of that Port Talbot shift supervisor who said he would never, ever forgive himself, having made a mistake and been conned into being sold short on his pension, with all 20 on his shift following his lead. It matters for the single mum in my constituency who had been a victim of domestic violence and had continuously to borrow to pay off her debt. As she said to me, “I borrowed to pay the debt because I borrowed to pay the debt because I borrowed to pay the debt.” It matters to Christine, who was first diagnosed with cancer in 2009 but is still feeling the financial effects today—in debt, pursued constantly for it and her bank oblivious to her condition.
The Bill will help to end scams. It will help to ensure that rogues who are exploiting in particular the vulnerable and undercutting the reputable have no place in the market in future. This is a good Bill. It was strengthened in the other place and then in Committee. It establishes the single financial guidance body, which is a strong step in the right direction.
The Bill has also seen progress today. Progress was previously made on issues of immense importance, in particular pensions cold-calling. It is deeply welcome that the Government have listened to the strong representations made across the House on breathing space and recognise the particular problems of those suffering from mental ill health. The new body will promote greater understanding and help people to plan their finances and retirement.
There is still further progress to be made. We will engage with the Government following our earlier exchanges, because of our very strong view that the time has come to stop all cold-calling for commercial purposes by claims management companies. There is very important progress yet to be made.
The Government have constructively engaged and sent some welcome signals. They have talked about the next stage of the process. The sooner we can get there, the better. I would like to thank a number of people. While there were rather robust exchanges over GKN earlier on in the Chamber, I have to praise both the Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, Guy Opperman, and the Economic Secretary to the Treasury for their helpful, constructive and collaborative approach.
I would like to thank the Work and Pensions Committee for its characteristically first-class intervention and advice, and in particular its Chair, my right hon. Friend Frank Field. The Committee can take particular credit for the progress made on the ban on pensions cold-calling.
I would like to thank all colleagues in this place who tabled amendments and contributed to the various debates that took place.
I thank the Members of the other place for the contributions that they made, again across party—particularly, but not exclusively, Lords Sharkey, Altmann, McKenzie of Luton and Drake. I thank also the Commons Clerks and other staff who worked so hard with us to shape the Bill and to take it through Parliament. All those parties and organisations have contributed to the passage of the Bill with their wisdom and many topics of interest.
I thank those organisations and individuals who passed on their research or sometimes heartbreaking stories, which brought home to us the Bill’s importance. I often say that I believe we need a story to tell the stories, and we have heard so many stories—sometimes tragic ones—throughout the Bill’s passage. It is for people like them that we are all here, and I hope that the Bill will help them in the next stages, and as we move forward, making further progress, ensuring that it benefits all, but especially the most vulnerable in our society.
In conclusion, I have something to say to that steel shift supervisor who wept uncontrollably about the consequences of what he had done and the effect on others who followed his lead. We say to him and all those whose stories were told throughout the Bill’s passage that sometimes nothing can be done to put right the wrong that they suffered in the past, but in their own way, by telling their stories, making their contribution, they have helped to bring into being a very important body—the single financial guidance body—that will ensure that never, ever again are others treated as they were.