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Written Statements

Wednesday 12 June 2013

Asset Protection Agency: Annual Report and Accounts

Statement

The Commercial Secretary to the Treasury (Lord Deighton): My honourable friend the Economic Secretary to the Treasury (Sajid Javid) has today made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

The annual report and accounts for the Asset Protection Agency (APA) has today been laid before Parliament.

The report contains commentary on key developments in relation to the APA and the Asset Protection Scheme (APS) and the annual accounts over the period from 1 April 2012 to 31 October 2012.

The APA closed on 31 October 2012, following the Royal Bank of Scotland’s (RBS) exit from the APS on 18 October 2012.

Consumer Rights Bill (Draft)

Statement

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (Viscount Younger of Leckie): My honourable friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Employment Relations and Consumer Affairs (Jo Swinson) has today made the following Statement.

Today the Government are publishing their response to the recent consultations on consumer rights and, alongside this, a draft Consumer Rights Bill with explanatory notes and impact assessments.

UK consumer law is currently unnecessarily complex, ambiguous in places and has not kept up with technological developments. The Government therefore propose a simple, modern framework of consumer rights, which is set out in the draft Bill. This will help consumers and their advocates understand their rights when things go wrong, with the aim of empowering consumers and promoting growth through competitive markets.

Part 1 of the draft Bill sets out clearly, in simple words and in one place, consumer rights to minimum quality for goods and services, which are currently contained within eight separate pieces of legislation, and the new category of digital content (such as e-books or software). It also establishes what should happen to rectify matters if those rights are breached.

The proposed reforms will make it easier for consumers to understand and access their key rights, including the:

right to clear and honest information before you buy;right to get what you pay for;right to goods and digital content being fit for purpose, and services being performed with reasonable care and skill; and

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right that faults in what you buy will be put right free of charge or a refund or replacement provided.

Part 2 of the draft Bill clarifies which contract terms can or cannot be challenged in court for fairness; and Part 3 consolidates powers of consumer law enforcers (for example, Trading Standards) to investigate breaches of consumer law, which are currently contained in around 60 pieces of legislation.

Part 3 also contains provisions to enable consumer law enforcers to ask the civil courts to require traders to compensate consumers where they have breached consumer law; and to provide faster and lower cost redress for consumers and businesses where there have been breaches of competition law.

Overall, the draft Bill reduces regulatory burdens for business, with the aim of making markets work better. For example, businesses should have fewer and less costly disputes with customers, because rights are clearer. Disruption caused by unplanned enforcement officers’ visits should be reduced by the proposed requirement to give reasonable notice to businesses when carrying out routine inspections. It should be easier for businesses and consumers to hold to account those who have breached competition law.

A copy of the Government’s response to the consultations on consumer rights and the impact assessments can be viewed here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/draft-consumer-rights-bill.

A copy of the draft Bill and explanatory notes can also be found on the website.

Credit Unions

Statement

The Commercial Secretary to the Treasury (Lord Deighton): My honourable friend the Economic Secretary to the Treasury (Sajid Javid) has today made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

Last December the Government published a consultation on raising the maximum interest rate cap for credit union loans. This consultation sought views on the proposal to increase the maximum interest rate that credit unions can charge, from 2% per month to 3% per month.

Following this consultation, the Government today publishes their response. The vast majority of the responses to the consultation were in favour, including individual credit unions, trade bodies, and consumer groups. The Government will therefore introduce legislation in the autumn to increase the interest rate that credit unions can charge from 2% to 3% per calendar month.

Allowing the maximum rate of interest to increase will enable credit unions to become more stable over the long term, and reduce the losses that they currently make on small, short-term loans. This means that low income consumers will have greater access to reliable, affordable credit. Even with a 1% increase in the monthly rate of interest, credit union loans will still be substantially cheaper than the alternatives for many consumers with no mainstream options. It is important to note that this increase in the interest rate is permissive;

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it does not require credit unions to increase the interest rate they charge but simply permits them to do so if they judge that the benefits outweigh the costs.

Many credit unions are strongly embedded in their local communities and are committed to assisting those on low incomes. Research shows that credit unions often appeal to low income consumers as bodies which are local, accessible and convenient, and which are community based. Giving credit unions more flexibility in their lending will enable them to recruit new members, and further establish their role in helping the financially excluded.

I am placing copies of this document in the Libraries of both Houses.

Transport: Disabled People

Statement

Earl Attlee: My honourable friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport (Norman Baker) has made the following Ministerial Statement.

The Government’s review of non-departmental public bodies in 2010 recommended that the Disabled Persons Transport Advisory Committee (DPTAC) should be abolished as part of wider goals to improve efficiency, effectiveness, economy and accountability.

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Having considered the matter carefully and taken account of the consultation responses received, I am today announcing that I have decided not to proceed with abolition, but to retain DPTAC as the department’s expert advisory panel on accessibility issues relating to disabled people.

A public consultation was held between 11 June and 14 September 2012, on whether DPTAC should be abolished and, if so, on possible alternative arrangements. Following the consultation, I have concluded that abolition would not lead to any discernible improvement in economy and accountability.

However, I have also concluded that there is scope for restructuring DPTAC to ensure it is a more efficient and effective body. I am satisfied that the savings identified from such reforms would exceed earlier expectations. My officials will now work together with those from Cabinet Office on the restructuring of DPTAC. As DPTAC has the characteristics of a non-departmental body, it will continue to be subject to review every three years.

This announcement will end a considerable period of uncertainty for the existing members of DPTAC, and I hope will be welcomed by the majority of respondents to the consultation who were in favour of its retention.