Last Updated: 14 November 2010
Created: 14 November 2010
Getting into debt and thinking there’s no way out is a problem and a worry for a growing number of people. This week we discussed the issue in Parliament, and I had a chance to speak in the Consumer Credit Regulation debate.
This was a crucial debate as the demand for credit will not diminish, especially with the myriad financial options that we have to deal with on a day to day basis.
Mortgages, direct debits, phone contracts, loans, credit cards, store cards and ‘pay day loans’ are all too familiar these days. As a former Councillor and now as an MP, I often deal with local residents who have found themselves in financial difficulty. This debate looked at various areas where changes could help improve the situation, in particular for those who find themselves trapped in a cycle of debt dependency. I must stress debt isn’t a bad thing. I’m sure we all have some form of debt, but it is important that the financial decisions we make are informed, and this was a theme which ran throughout the debate.
It is crucial that people have access to debt help and advice, helping those in financial difficulties to make informed decisions. All too often people seek help too late, having chosen to simply try and ignore the problem. With this in mind, my Swindon constituency office will be working with various debt agencies and financial organisations to make sure we are fully trained on this issue. We will also work with the local media ahead of the festive period, a time where financial pressures are at their greatest, to set out constructive advice.
More needs to be done to make sure the marketing messages are understandable. Typically the cost of a loan is set out in terms of APR, yet worryingly recent studies have shown that many people wrongly think the higher the APR the better. When people commit to either loans or contracts it is important that the true cost and full implications are made clear, again allowing for informed decisions to be taken.
A recent Nationwide Building Society survey said 91% of those who admitted past financial mistakes believe that financial education could have helped them avoid these mistakes. Therefore working with PFEG, the national financial education charity, Martin Lewis of moneysavingexpert.com and Nationwide, I am setting up an All Party Parliamentary Group with the focus of securing compulsory financial education in schools. Already I have been supported by MPs right across the political spectrum. It is our duty to make sure that young people are equipped with the necessary life skills to make those informed financial decisions.