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Mr. Vaizey: I agree with the hon. Gentleman, and with the hon. Member for Carmarthen, East and Dinefwr, that the Government should review the position. There is evidence that an interest rate cap has worked on the continent and in America, and I believe that we should consider it here. I urge my hon. Friend the Member for Wealden to include it in the Conservative party manifesto for the next general election, because I think that the policy will prove to be extremely attractive on the doorstep.
The intervention from the hon. Member for North Norfolk (Norman Lamb) brings me to my third and final point. I agree with his emphasis on personal financial education. As the Minister will recall, I raised the subject on Second Reading. I raise it now with your indulgence, Mr. Deputy Speaker, as it is not specifically within the frame of the Bill.
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I find it extremely odd that, in the 21st century, it is possible to go to school and receive only the merest smattering of education. Pupils may learn algebra, which they will never use again, or a foreign language, which they will rarely use again. I would go so far as to say that 99 per cent. of what I learned at school I never use. It would be a great idea to include personal financial education, not merely as a fringe activity but as a core part of our education system. School children should be able to take GCSEs and A-levels in the subject, to educate themselves in the wily ways of financial services.
Let me end by saying how grateful I am for the opportunity to participate, as a new Member, in debates on the Bill. I wish it well as it makes its stately progress across Central Lobby to the other place.
Mr. Sutcliffe: I will not speak for long[Laughter.] A certain hon. Gentleman is obviously pleased to hear it. Many interesting issues have been raised, and I stand here feeling some satisfaction, in that the Bill has reached Third Reading and will now proceed to the other place. As a result, in the near future there will be protection for a wide range of consumers who seek credit. We have focused on people on low incomes, but we have also agreed that credit is a useful tool when handled properly.
I realise that the question of an interest rate cap is central to this debate. Our research on this issue has been criticised, but I should point out that the research undertaken by Policis focused on those on low and very low incomes primarily because they are the most vulnerable groups. Much of the existing data have not been separated to show the position of those on low incomes. However, as I have said all along, I am genuinely prepared to examine the information that comes in. In answer to the point raised by the hon. Member for Hornchurch (James Brokenshire), we will review the legislation within two to three years and examine the various issues arising.
Mr. Sutcliffe: I shall not give an answer to that today. I want first to be able to examine the Bill's impact and the way in which the unfair relationship test, about which there has been some disagreement, works.
We will not be complacent, however, and we must remember that this Bill must be seen not in isolation, but in the context of the various cross-departmental initiatives on financial inclusion. The hon. Member for Carmarthen, East and Dinefwr (Adam Price) discussed developing credit unions, and the hon. Member for Wantage (Mr. Vaizey) raised the issue of financial education, which will be provided. We must not only increase the money available in the financial inclusion fund, but engage in a cross-departmental effort to examine how best to provide financial education at an early stage in people's lives.
I pay tribute to the work of the various bodies involved in this process, such as consumer and industry groups and the newspapers. The hon. Member for Wealden (Charles Hendry) mentioned the role of the
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Daily Mirror in particular, but other newspapers have also launched campaigns to protect consumers, which I welcome. They will not let us get away with being complacent. As things develop, we must ensure that consumer protection is in place, but we should not be frightened of also ensuring that responsible lenders are able to grow their business.
We are going to have to deal with the problem of loan sharks very soon, and with that in mind we are running two pilot projects, in Birmingham and in Glasgow. The Birmingham project is working very well. The issues being dealt with are very depressing. These loan sharks lend huge sums, and there are other, associated evils. For example, loan sharks target single mothers living in high-rise flats because lenders do not allow their staff to visit such flats; as a result, such single mothers cannot obtain any other kind of credit. If they happen to miss a few payments, the loan sharks encourage them into prostitution or drugs. We are determined to tackle this problem, and we must ensure that those at the low end of the income scale are not preyed upon by loan sharks.
There are many other issues that we could talk about this afternoon, but I want to stress that the Bill is a co-ordinated attempt to achieve consensus. The political consensus that has developed is important. As the hon. Member for Wantage said, anyone who has followed our proceedings has seen Parliament at its best. We are trying to improve constituents' lives by providing protection for consumers, while at the same time being fair to business.
I am pleased that the Bill has managed to get through. If it passes through the other place, it will be the first of this Session to receive Royal Assent, which is a tribute to all involved. I also pay tribute to the officials in the DTI who supported me and to House officials who have ensured that the Bill has had a safe passage.
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