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Financial Guidance and Claims Act 2018 (Naming and Consequential Amendments) Regulations 2019 - Motion to Take Note

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 6:30 pm on 1st May 2019.

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Photo of Lord Stevenson of Balmacara Lord Stevenson of Balmacara Opposition Whip (Lords) 6:30 pm, 1st May 2019

My Lords, I thank all those who have contributed to this short debate. It has served its purpose and achieved what we wanted, which was a chance to reflect on the progress made since the passing of the Bill and an update on the heartening and encouraging work now going on—the listening posts, the three-year plan and the idea that out of this will come a national strategy. I cannot remember whether in the Bill we required that to be brought back to Parliament, but I am sure that an inventive Minister like the one who has just responded would be able to find a way of allowing us to have another discussion on that strategy when it is produced so that we might at least have some sense of engagement with it.

One question arises from that which does not need to be responded to today. On the programme of events that will accompany the emergence of MAPS as a fully fledged body, the breathing space can be achieved by regulation, but the statutory debt management plans require legislation, as might some of the work on pensions. I do not see many notifications of that in the forward programme, but that itself is also quite difficult to discern. When the Minister has some information, perhaps she might share it with us when we are developing that set of legislative processes, because it would give us opportunities to come back to some of the issues we have not touched on. There is an outstanding Goods Mortgages Bill which would be fantastically important in eliminating one more of the high-cost credit problems that we have; namely, that car book loans, established under Victorian legislation of 1858 and 1862, still exist and fall completely outside the current system under which the Financial Ombudsman and others can operate. They predate that and are about a thing called a bill of sale, which should be outlawed. If we cannot get that on to the statute book as part of this process, we are really failing.

I think the question of bailiffs will come up through the report of the Ministry of Justice on bailiff operation. There is a clear need for a statutory basis for bailiffs’ operations. A good code of practice and some form of redress system would contribute considerably to assisting those in trouble. Those are details to be followed up. I include in that the pensions dashboard, which the Minister did not touch on but which is also an important step forward.

The most reverend Primate the Archbishop of York was right to say that there is still too much high-cost credit around. The corollary of that is that there is still a problem about low-cost credit being available at the appropriate time and in the appropriate amount to those who, curiously, borrow the most in our society. The poorest in society borrow more than those further up the income scale because they have to. As they are paid on a short-term basis or are living on limited amounts of money, they have to borrow when big expenditure arises. The system does not provide for that—not even for basic bank accounts. We need to go back to that and think more about savings. Auto-enrolment is a huge success. A lot of thinking by the Treasury has contributed to it—under previous Governments as well as under the current one—and it is to be given great credit. When it was first proposed when I was in a think tank, I thought it was the daftest thing I had ever heard of—making people contribute to savings when there were so many other pressures on them—but it has been a huge success and I am very glad that it is there.

However, it is only part of the story. It is far easier to borrow money in this society than it is to save. Why is that? Why do we have perverse incentives about people being able to accumulate cash that would see them through? I did not cite the statistics in the StepChange yearbook, but it is still incredible that a huge number of people do not have enough money from their current income to see them through one month’s problems. We must do something to help them.

The most important strand is education. We delude ourselves if we think that by simply asserting that this is an important area that should be in the national curriculum we will achieve it. Both my noble friend Lord McKenzie and the noble Baroness, Lady Neville-Rolfe, have experience of trying to get this to work in previous Administrations and I wish the Minister well with it. Is there anything we can do to ensure not only that this is seen as a good idea but that it is taken up by those with the ability to deliver, particularly given my noble friend’s points about the new environment? The Government’s only statutory ability is in relation to the limited number of schools that are still a local authority concern, but they have no lien in terms of forcing through the curriculum for academies or those schools in private hands. There are situations where kids will not learn what we all know they need to learn. Exactly like the noble Baroness, I wish I had known at the time, when I could have done something about it, what I know now when I am in such straitened circumstances.

Motion agreed.