I apologise to the Minister, who will not have anticipated my bobbing up for two minutes.
I commend Margaret Ferrier for securing the debate. Like her, I have been contacted by numerous constituents who had Safe Hands policies and are in deep distress. Some of them have relatives who are very near death and are unsure what will happen to them. I welcome Dignity’s proactive approach, but I remain deeply concerned that many more firms in a similar situation will withdraw from the market before FCA regulation takes full effect. I am not yet clear that Dignity has the capacity to cope with that level of demand, or that the industry as a whole has the willpower to address this issue.
This reminds me, to some extent, of the Farepak scandal about 10 years ago, although those sums were relatively small compared with the sums invested in funeral plans. I represent one of the most deprived communities in the United Kingdom, and the cost of a funeral can be one of the largest unexpected bills faced by families in my constituency. Many of them will have invested in these plans, not just for the emotional security but for the financial security, too. The risk is that, as an alternative, they will have to resort to the very dangerous lending practices of loan sharks and doorstep lenders.
I urge the Minister to explain what more he can do, and to accelerate the no-interest loan pilot, on which I know he is working. The perfect vehicle for dealing with these large, unexpected costs is to allow the state to provide an interim solution to give people more financial stability. These costs are a genuine worry for dozens, if not hundreds, of people in my constituency, and I join the hon. Member for Rutherglen and Hamilton West in looking forward to hearing what the Minister has to say.