The Bill was returned from the Commons with the amendments agreed to.
House adjourned at 3.27 pm.
The text of the first Oral Question in yesterday's Official Report was incomplete. The following text of the supplementary Questions and Answers will appear in columns 1071 and 1072 in the Bound Volume and on the internet.
My Lords, I thank the Minister for that Answer. Having said that, I was worried at first that I had the wrong supplementary. I was going to ask whether he remembered the Consumer Credit Act 2006, but of course he was not in the House at the time we debated it. Is the Minister aware—I am sure that he is—that I proposed a very modest amendment that would have required the lender to ask the borrower if he had the means to meet the commitment? The then Minister replied that it was certainly not necessary to have that on the face of the Bill. Given the indebtedness of individuals throughout the country and the fact that I never like to say I was right—nevertheless I am going to say that I was right—could the Minister please now tell the House what they are prepared to do to remedy the situation?
My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Baroness for indulging me and apologise for my incompetence at the beginning of my Answer. The Consumer Credit Act 2006 does contain important new safeguards for consumers. In particular, it will make it easier for the Office of Fair Trading to take action against lenders who do not take a responsible attitude to lending when considering who is fit to hold a consumer credit licence. But it is not just about addressing behaviour through legislation. Financial education, particularly of the young, has an equally important role in ensuring that a responsible attitude is taken to borrowing as well as lending.
My Lords, is the Minister aware that 80 per cent of the debt in the UK is in the form of a mortgage, which is asset-backed, and that we have one of the most efficient financial services industries in the world? I declare an interest as a senior adviser to the Royal Bank of Scotland. Is he also aware that it is not in the interests of any financial institution to lend money to those who are unable to repay?
My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend for those remarks, which are helpful in providing a context to the debate. The vast majority of consumers are able to manage their debts well and the Government do not propose to interfere in those circumstances.
My Lords, much is being done: we have reformed the regulations governing consumer credit advertising to make these clearer and fairer. We have also introduced pre-contract information to help consumers to make an informed choice before entering into a credit agreement. The implementation of the Consumer Credit Act 2006 will give increased powers to the Office of Fair Trading to safeguard the interests of consumers. Beyond that, £11.5 million is being spent on a package of support for schools to teach children financial skills.
My Lords, my noble friend is referring to two kinds of lending, one where there is security involved and one where there is no security. On the latter, I referred to action the OFT might take against irresponsible lenders in an earlier answer. As far as mortgages are concerned, the FSA has been doing a lot of work in this area recently. It recently published details of a review into the behaviour of intermediaries and lenders within the sub-prime mortgage market. It discovered weaknesses in responsible lending practices and in firms' assessments of consumers' ability to afford a mortgage. As a result it referred five firms to its enforcement division. Potential remedies include withdrawal of their permission to operate and financial penalties.