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Consumer Rights Bill

Volume 580: debated on Tuesday 13 May 2014

[1st allocated day]

Consideration of Bill, as amended in the Public Bill Committee

New Clause 1

Independent advocacy: report

‘(1) Within three months of Royal Assent of this Act the Secretary of State must publish a report detailing how—

(a) better outcomes for consumers of public services; and

(b) more efficient decision-making processes,

will be ensured.

(2) A report under subsection (1) will consider—

(a) how each public service provider will ensure a formalised approach to ensuring independent advocacy is available for consumers at an early stage in the decision-making process for the provision of public services;

(b) the nature of an independent advocate to participate in this process, and the definition of independence, including how this could be supported by the conduct of any service provider;

(c) the effect of a breach in a consumer’s statutory rights as set out by this Act when a direct commissioning contract is in place;

(d) what formal status any independent advice provided will have in relation to decision-making, in particular, in instances where a public service continues to act contrary to such information and formal legal redress is sought;

(e) the role of the public sector ombudsman services in overseeing any such approach under paragraph (a);

(f) how a public service provider will report on their formalised approach under paragraph (a); and

(g) how the approach under paragraph (a) would ensure all consumers of services covered by this Act have access to a licensed alternative redress mechanism.

(3) For the purposes of this section a public service is any provided to the consumer directly by—

(a) a Government department;

(b) a local or public authority; or

(c) a trader acting on behalf of these organisations.

(4) For the purposes of this section a person shall be a consumer of public services under a “direct commissioning contract” when they enter any—

(a) agreement;

(b) contract;

(c) consumer notice; or

(d) proposed contract,

for receiving a service which the person has a direct role in commissioning.’.—(Stella Creasy.)

Brought up, and read the First time.

With this it will be convenient to discuss the following:

New clause 2—Guidance for statutory regulators

‘(1) Within three months of Royal Assent of this Act, the Secretary of State shall publish guidance based on the work of the Implementation Group.

(2) Guidance published under section (1) shall—

(a) detail how consumers should be informed of their rights and at what point this should happen;

(b) ensure that traders have the information they need regarding their responsibilities under this Act and other consumer rights legislation;

(c) define what may be a “reasonable time” for consumers to secure refunds, repairs or replacement, or repeat performance; and

(d) specify the sanctions available to enforcement agencies in cases where the guidance has not been followed.

(3) Within six months of the publication of guidance under subsection (1), the Secretary of State shall issue a code of practice in relation to the exercise of any and all the functions set out in the guidance, subject to the provisions of subsections (5) to (7).

(4) Any person exercising such a function must have regard to the code in determining any general policy or principles by reference to which the person exercises the function.

(5) Where the Secretary of State proposes to issue a code of practice under subsection (3), he shall prepare a draft of the code, and shall lay the draft before Parliament.

(6) Where the draft laid before Parliament under subsection (5) is approved by resolution of each House of Parliament, the Secretary of State shall issue the code.

(7) A code issued under subsection (6) shall come into force on such date as the Secretary of State may by order made by statutory instrument appoint.’.

New clause 3—Access to data

‘Schedule [Access to data] has effect.’.

New clause 4—Guidance based on the work of the implementation group

‘(1) Within three months of Royal Assent of this Act, the Secretary of State shall publish guidance based on the work of the Implementation Group.

(2) Guidance published under subsection (1) shall—

(a) advise on the period that a trader may retain sums paid by the consumer for services not yet supplied by the trader, where it is the consumer who dissolves the contract;

(b) further to paragraph (a), advise on the terms under which traders should manage the interest on such sums and make provision for the return of this interest to the consumer; and

(c) advise on whether it should be permissible to charge for a guarantee where that guarantee does not offer any undertaking to the consumer additional to their rights as set out in this Act.’.

New clause 5—Independent consumer advice

‘Within three months of this Act receiving Royal Assent, the Secretary of State shall produce guidance setting out requirements for all statutory regulators to report annually on the provision of independent advice which is free at the point of delivery, and to make recommendations on ensuring consumers’ rights are protected.’.

New clause 10—Powers of the Information Commissioner: nuisance calls

‘(1) The Data Protection Act 1998 is amended as follows.

(2) In section 40 (Enforcement Notices), leave out subsection (2).

(3) In section 55A (Power of Commissioner to impose monetary penalty), leave out subsection (1)(b).’.

New schedule 1—‘Access to data

Information for consumers

1 The Secretary of State shall report to Parliament within six months of Royal Assent of this Act setting out how consumers will have access to the information they require in order to make informed assessments of prices, charges and fees.

Supply of customer data

2 A report under paragraph 1 shall include details of how the Government intends to—

(a) make regulations to require all regulated persons to provide customer data relating to transactions between the regulated person and the customer, as set out in section 89 (Supply of customer data) of the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act 2013;

(b) enable third parties to make requests for customer data under section 89(1)(b) of that Act; and

(c) ensure customer data is provided in a form which enables the customer or third party to assess whether the price they are paying for a service is reasonable, which should have regard to section 89(7) of the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act 2013.

Designation of regulated persons and regulatory bodies

3 A report under paragraph 1 shall—

(a) review which traders, including the activities of any government, or local or public authority, as defined by section 2 of this Act, shall be considered a regulated person under section 89(2) of the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act 2013; and

(b) identify a relevant regulatory body to undertake the duties set out in paragraph 4 of this Schedule.

Guidance for regulated persons

4 A report under paragraph 1 shall include details of how the Government intends to require regulators of services which are provided by regulated persons, as defined in section 89(2) of the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act 2013, to produce guidance on the implementation of section 89 of that Act.

5 Guidance produced for regulated persons under paragraph 4 shall include—

(a) how regulated persons should provide customer data;

(b) details on the ownership of customer data which shall include, but is not limited to—

(i) that customer data generated directly, at any point in the course of a contract, is owned by the customer;

(ii) that prior to any decision requiring the transmission of data in a format where the customer can be identified to a third party, direct consent of the customer as owner of the data must be secured; and

(iii) how regulated persons should recognise and publicise that such data is owned by the customer;

(c) how customers may consent to their data being shared with third parties under section 89(1)(b) of the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act 2013;

(d) specify sanctions for traders who are not able to confirm the consent of the customer to sharing their data;

(e) measures to limit the amount that may be charged for any such single request for data on behalf of multiple customers;

(f) how regulated persons, who hold data on customers on behalf of any government, local or public authority, can use this information to secure social and consumer benefits; and

(g) how regulated persons, who hold data on customers on behalf of any government, local or public authority, can contribute to a report under paragraph 7.

Access to information: public services

6 (1) The Secretary of State shall report to Parliament within six months of Royal Assent of this Act on how the Government intends to ensure that all consumers of public services, who have a direct role in commissioning them, are able to access information regarding any consumer contract or consumer notices which may reasonably be understood to apply to them.

(2) A report under sub-paragraph (1) shall have particular regard to—

(a) the access to information that consumers of public services require; and

(b) how access to information can ensure greater transparency on the work of traders.

(3) For the purposes of this paragraph, “public services” means the work of any government, local or public authority or traders offering services on their behalf.

Access to information: annual report

7 (1) The Secretary of State shall produce and submit to Parliament an annual report setting out an analysis of the cumulative costs and benefits of Government decisions relating to the rights of consumers and protection of their interests.

(2) A report under sub-paragraph (1) shall in particular address the effect on—

(a) household consumption;

(b) vulnerable households; and

(c) any other subjects as the Secretary of State decides.’.

We come to the Report stage of the Consumer Rights Bill. I am minded of the words of the great English churchman Thomas Fuller, who said that our lot was to be born crying, live complaining and die disappointed. Of course, as true Brits, we know that that approach can be best encompassed in a “tut”, but we see the Bill as offering much more than a “tut” for people who have been ripped off. We see the potential of the Bill to free us of that particular malaise, and with that in mind we have tabled a number of amendments that we hope will receive the support of the House.

We believe that the Bill should be subject to the tests—that they should be performed with reasonable care and skill—that it sets for goods and services. At the moment, it is found wanting, and that is why today we are looking for a repeat performance and hope of speedy redress. The new clauses speak to that and in particular to the Opposition’s approach to consumer rights, which should not be only about dealing with problems when something has gone wrong, but, when done well, could avert problems. For that to happen, consumers need three things—more information, strong advocacy and speedy forms of redress.

In introducing the Bill, the Minister has opened a veritable Pandora’s box, given how some of its clauses will be perceived on the consumer landscape in the UK. We are mindful that hope lies at the bottom of Pandora’s box, and we hope with the new clauses to bring hope for how consumer rights legislation could work. Let me explain what I mean. I want to turn first to new clause 3 and new schedule 1, which new clause 3 brings into effect. The schedule refers to the first principle to which I referred—information. How do consumers get the information that they need to make the right choices for themselves the first time? We know that having access to more information is vital to empowering consumers.

The Government’s research, “Better Choices, Better Deals”, argues that if consumers were able to use price comparison sites more effectively, they could gain £150 million to £240 million a year. That is why the Opposition welcomed many of the ideas and intentions behind the midata project to give consumers more access to their information in a portable and accessible format. In Committee we expressed concern that, despite the project, four years on, it is not really working. There is a lack of information coming forward to consumers. The Minister defended the slow progress of the midata project, telling us that taking action now would prejudice the results of a review of the project that she has commissioned, and she did not think that that would be beneficial to the programme or, ultimately, to consumers. We have tabled the new clause and schedule because we fundamentally disagree. We want to go much further.

Currently the midata project covers four areas of consumer data, but we think that the power in the new schedule offers the potential for a framework for improving consumer and citizen access to data in a way that can transform outcomes and improve our consumer markets; that would be good for business and good for Britain.

We do not understand why the Government gave themselves the power, under the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act 2013, to enact the midata project and yet have not done so. The first thing that new schedule 1 does, therefore, is put that power into effect to ensure that consumers get the information they need, in a portable and accessible format, about a key utility bill.

Every time we click, we create wealth—whether we are giving our contact details or browsing online, companies are harvesting information that drives their marketing and product development. Datasets such as store loyalty cards, medical records or tax affairs are an important and revealing resource for both the public and the private sector. Facebook is making more money than any of us can dream about from the content that we are creating. That stream of data should not be one-way. Citizens and consumers should have access to those data in a meaningful way, which allows them to start calling for the kind of products and services that they want.

My hon. Friend is making a number of key and critical points about the potential power of data in both the consumer and the public sector. Has she been able to detect a strategic or coherent approach to data access from the Government in respect of the Bill?

I pay tribute to my hon. Friend for the work that she is doing in the digital review that she is conducting for Labour, which reflects precisely what she is talking about—a strategic approach. That stands in stark contrast to the shambles that we have seen in relation to the project, the tax return data project and some of the amendments that have been tabled to the Deregulation Bill.

This Government talk about data being like oil—a resource that can be exploited to make new industries and potentially huge profit margins. If we are creating it, however, we should also benefit from it. That is why in the new schedule we have set out a framework to enable that. We want to make sure that the British public are firmly in charge of their own data, so that they benefit from those data and how they can be used.

This should happen not just in the private sector, through the midata project, but in the public sector. It is important that we flag that up, not least because when the Bill was originally proposed, and in Committee, the Minister tried to tell us that it had no relevance to the public sector. She told the Committee:

“The purpose of the Bill is to look at the rights that consumers have in their relationships with business; it is not to look at any rights that consumers have when it comes to public services.”––[Official Report, Consumer Rights Public Bill Committee, 11 February 2014; c. 66.]

Only when we questioned her in the Committee did she admit that the provisions of the Bill affect the public sector. That gives us the opportunity to ask how we can ensure that consumers and citizens have access to data to make good choices in both the public and the private sector.

So far the Government have admitted that the provisions cover valuable benefits such as personal health budgets, university tuition fees and child care vouchers. Given the framework that the Government have set out, we think that the licence fee, perhaps controlled parking zones, bus fares and possibly even water and sanitation services—directly provided services that consumers pay for and for which they therefore have a contract with the provider—should also be covered.

There are concerns about access to services in the public sector, which the amendments would address. One in five of us has experienced a problem with public services in the past year, but a third of us who have experienced a problem with the public sector do not complain. We are what the Public Administration Committee has called a nation of “silent sufferers”. “More complaints please!” is the title of its report. That is not what is coming forward from the public.

As we all know, good complaints help to generate feedback. They therefore help to make services in the public and the private sector more responsive. I estimate that two thirds of our casework as MPs is about public service decisions gone wrong. Much of that is to do with what we would recognise in the private sector as information asymmetries—people not knowing what services they are entitled to and therefore getting a raw deal.

New schedule 1, which is inserted by new clause 3, is about the lessons that we can apply from the midata project to information across our lives in both the public and the private sector. We know that sharing data directly with citizens can help reform public services and improve outcomes, but we also recognise that the relationship that people have with the public sector is different from their relationship with the private sector, so regulators should look at how to make it work in both fields. We recognise that we are both providers of public services, as taxpayers, and also users and consumers of public services in our daily lives.

The benefits that come from releasing data in the public and the private sector are manifest. We need a clear framework to make sure that it is not only those with the loudest voices or the largest wallets who are able to access the benefits, whether it is giving patients the information they need on their health care to manage conditions for themselves, improving parent and pupil involvement in schools, or communities designing their own cities. The benefits from this process could be legendary, but the Bill does little to move that debate forward. Our concern is that as currently drafted the Bill could create further inequalities, as those who understand their rights in the public sector are able to use them but those who do not cannot.

Let me explain how we think the issue could be addressed. New schedule 1 is about access to information, allowing people to make the right choice the first time. New clause 1 acknowledges that choice is not enough to guarantee a good outcome. People often need an advocate, an expert or an adviser with whom to work through the options and decide what works for them. New clauses 1 and 5 both introduce a clear commitment to advocacy in the public and the private sectors to help improve the relationship betweens service providers and service users.

In the public sector, advocacy can not only improve outcomes but cut costs. A study in Nottingham showed that 60% of cases that a local advice provider was working with involved public sector decisions made badly the first time. Involving advocates reduced the number of complaints by 30%, reducing the burden on the public sector and improving outcomes for the users of services. It is a win-win scenario. The more challenge there is in the public sector, the more information and the more advocacy in the private sector, the more we can make our markets work better and our services serve our people.

However, it is clear from the work that we have done since the initial conversations in Committee that that approach, ethos and understanding of what the Bill could do for the public sector, how information could make a difference, and how advocacy could be beneficial, has not been progressed in Government discussions. It is worrying to us on the Opposition Benches to discover that, having admitted that the Bill will cover sections of the public sector, the Minister has not had talks with the Department for Culture, Media and Sport about what that might mean for the licence fee.

Many of us might have watched the Eurovision song contest on Saturday night. Many of us might have had comments about the coverage—some supportive, some negative. Under the Bill, it could be argued that we have a right to a service performed with reasonable care and skill, so if we did not think that Graham Norton was the most erudite host, we could make a complaint. In theory, under the Bill, we would have a right to a repeat performance, a price reduction or a refund. That has huge ramifications for the BBC and for the licence fee, yet no conversations have yet taken place between DCMS and the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills on the matter. We are also told that the Minister has not spoken to Ministers in the Department for Education about how the Bill covers child care tax vouchers, yet she admits that it does. Clearly, the Bill opens up the possibility that some parents will be able to use such rights to challenge the provision of nursery services in their areas, whereas others who do not know their entitlement will not.

We know that the Minister has at least spoken to the Department of Health about how the provisions will affect personal care budgets. She has, apparently, had regular informal contact. Given that many of us know that the silent sufferers are often incredibly vulnerable people, frightened of complaining about a carer because they are frightened of what will happen next, regular informal contact, I would wager, does not cut it when the Bill could transform what happens.

The Minister has, however, spoken to some people in her own Department about tuition fees. Unfortunately, the Minister with responsibility for higher education tells us that no meeting has taken place with external stakeholders about how the Bill will affect tuition fees. That might be because in Committee the Minister was not entirely sure whether students were consumers—having spoken to students about their consumption patterns, I think we can agree that they are when it comes to paying tuition fees. That is why, when the Minister responsible for higher education tells us that there have been no meetings with student representatives, higher education providers and universities on the implications of the Bill, we are rightly worried. The new clauses are needed to put in place a framework to understand those implications.

Many of us may remember some of our university lectures, some positively, some negatively. The fact that we would have the right under the legislation to complain that they had not been prepared or delivered with reasonable care and skill opens that Pandora’s box. That is why the National Union of Students has said that it is concerned about how the Bill is drafted and the possibility that legal redress could be easier and more effective for students with greater resources, whether in terms of finance or access to legal services.

My hon. Friend is making some powerful points about the rights of consumers and public service users. Does she not find it strange that parties that are so keen to turn passengers and patients into consumers now do not seem to understand the implications of giving potential public service users consumer rights?

I absolutely agree. We all want to see an empowered citizenry. We believe that would be positive for our public services by encouraging feedback on how services work for the public. But the risk with the Bill as it stands is that those with sharp elbows will do well and those without will simply be left behind. I think that is why both Citizens Advice and Unison, which after all has considerable expertise in some of these relationships, support the amendments and say that they want to see further debate and scrutiny on how we ensure that we do not have a two-tier system, with only those services that have a direct relationship getting better service responsiveness because of such legal rights, and only those people who can access services and complain getting those rights.

Trading standards has told us how it often refers people to what it calls the “sausage machine” of local council complaint services. Under this new legislation, it is not clear whether trading standards would then be able to pick up issues. That could lead to real inequalities in both the public and private sectors without advocacy and clearer information rights, which is why we have tabled the amendments.

I also want to draw colleagues’ attention to paragraph 5 of new schedule 1, which we also believe will tackle nuisance calls. We recognise that the misuse of data is as important as the analysis of data and that there is a need to put in place a proper framework on that. Many of us will have had constituents complain about nuisance calls and texts. Indeed, only this afternoon, while waiting for this debate, I received a text telling me that I could get compensation for an accident that I have not had—perhaps it came from the Government Whips.

However, we know that there is a gap at the moment where it is hard for the Information Commissioner to prove that there has been a lack of consent, where companies themselves will not be clear about whether they have the consent of the person they have bombarded with text messages and phone calls. In one six-month period alone, 71% of landline customers said that they had received a live marketing call and 63% said that they had received a marketing message. We also know that the Information Commissioner receives about 2,500 complaints a month about unsolicited text messages. We want to close that loophole. The all-party group on nuisance calls also recommended tightening the rules on consent, and Ofcom has said that it agrees. Indeed, the Government’s own report on the nuisance calls action plan said that we should do more on consent.

Paragraph 5 of new schedule 1 would enable fines to be imposed for those people who do not show that they have the explicit consent of consumers to send them that kind of marketing message. We think that is entirely proportionate and hope that Government Members, even if they are scrabbling to understand quite what the Bill would do in the public sector, will recognise the issue of nuisance calls and act accordingly to address it. I would also encourage those among us who speak up for taxpayers—perhaps Gary Barlow should take note—to support new schedule 1.

Indeed. “Take that” is the answer we would give on many of these things.

New schedule 1 looks at the cumulative impact of Government policy on households. Currently, among European nations only Estonia has a worse proportion of people struggling to pay their energy bills than the UK. Yet one of the issues that have been debated across the House is the impact of some of the long-term planning on the infrastructure building projects for our energy system in this country and the consequences for energy bills. Indeed, in November last year the National Audit Office published a damning report stating:

“Government and regulators do not know by how much overall expected new investment by the private sector in infrastructure will increase household utility bills and whether bills will be affordable.”

We know that the concept of affordability is contested by some, and we know from the evidence the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs gave the Public Accounts Committee that it does not even have a target for affordability in relation to water bills. Yet many of us will have seen at first hand in our constituencies how people are struggling with those basic costs of living. We think that the Government should be able to publish an analysis of the impact of their own policies on the cost of living. Paragraph 7 of new schedule 1 asks for such a report to be provided by the Treasury. I am sure that Government Members who support transparency will want to support it.

I will say a little about new clause 2, which concerns implementation. After all, we think that with this framework we are offering the Government a way forward on information and advocacy, but we also recognise that it is no good having rights written on paper if they are not a reality in practice. One of the concerns that came up repeatedly in Committee—many of the Opposition amendments that the Government opposed related to this—is how consumers will actually access rights in practice. When will they know that they have a right to a repeat performance? At what point will the BBC tell us that we have a right to a price reduction because we did not like its commentary?

Those are all questions that the Minister said would be dealt with by the implementation group. It became a mythical beast in our minds, because it will cover so many issues, from point-of-sale information, information on remedies open to consumers, how businesses should be informed of these rights, the length of time before people can get a refund, the time limits people would get on a repair, replacement or repeat performance, or even testing consumers’ understanding of their rights.

Time and again the Minister said that we should leave it to a body of experts, which we believe—we are not entirely sure—includes organisations such as Citizens Advice, Which?, the Trading Standards Institute, the British Retail Consortium and even the Financial Conduct Authority. They are worthy bodies indeed to look at these issues, but we had some concerns in Committee, having seen some of the minutes of their meetings, which are not very frequent. Despite their good works, any recommendations they make would not be statutory guidance. Therefore, new clause 2 simply states that the recommendations they make about the rules on how the Bill should be implemented should have meaning, that they should have real teeth, that it is no good saying that it would be good for consumers to be informed of their rights if that does not actually happen at the coal face or at the shopping till.

In proposing this first group of new clauses, we are trying to make this Bill what it could be. We are trying to find the hope at the bottom of Pandora’s box. We are trying to ensure that consumers have access to the information and advice they need to make good choices the first time around. The old model of politics, in which progress depends on centralising these abilities, will no longer work with our communities. The task at hand, we believe, is to give the public more control and more power over their lives to enable them to make the choices that they want to make first time. As it stands, the Bill will leave citizens to navigate services alone, without the resources, either money or skill, to struggle to make them work.

We want to do something different. We want to reform the public sector by devolving power to people, investing in the prevention and co-operation they need to make services work for them, to stand shoulder to shoulder with every consumer and every citizen, not blunting the efforts of those who already fight for services, but enabling more people to give the feedback about the kinds of services we want in the public and private sectors. We believe that new clauses 1, 2, 3 and 5 and new schedule 1 will enable that framework to be put in place, and we hope that the Government will respond positively to the points that we have made as a result.

I rise to speak to new clause 10, which stands in my name. Although I support paragraph 5 of new schedule 1, it is not just the lack of consent that I think is the problem with nuisance calls. My new clause has been promoted by the huge growth in nuisance calls and messages. In fact, on each occasion when I have been out on the streets recently, at least three people have come up to me to talk about the explosion in unsolicited contacts and said, “Can’t something be done?” There is a weak data protection regime and consumers feel that they have lost control of their personal information.

I am convinced that if I was on a desert island the first call I would receive would be someone offering me a loan to get off the island. For people in financial difficulties, in particular, nuisance calls and text messages offering high-cost credit, such as payday loans or fee-charging debt management services, can lead to the temptation to take out products or services that, if mis-sold—they often are—could substantially worsen their situation.

StepChange has done some research that shows that 1.2 million British adults have been tempted to take out high-interest credit as a result of an unsolicited marketing call or text. There is legislation to protect consumers against these practices. Unsolicited promotional electronic messages are banned, but the ban is widely flouted and inadequately enforced. My new clause would lower the threshold for firms breaching the Act. At the moment, the Information Commissioner’s Office can issue enforcement notices against these companies only if “damage or distress” can be demonstrated. It can also issue monetary penalties to firms misusing consumer data or breaking the laws on electronic communication under section 551 of the Data Protection Act, but only if

“substantial damage or substantial distress”

to the consumer can be demonstrated.

I believe that those thresholds are far too high. They should be lowered so that firms can be issued with enforcement notices or fined for breaching the Act without the Information Commissioner having to demonstrate “damage or distress” or

“substantial damage or substantial distress”.

The current thresholds have resulted in a situation where it is next to impossible for the Information Commissioner to enforce penalties against these firms. A recent tribunal decision went against the Information Commissioner when a £300,000 fine was overturned despite the defendant sending hundreds of thousands of illegal text messages.

This situation cannot continue. We have to demonstrate that we are serious about stemming the flood of unwanted text messages and nuisance calls. Lowering the thresholds would send that message and allow the Information Commissioner to do his job—the job that consumers expect him to do. We need to take away the thresholds about distress to the consumer and simply tell companies, “It’s illegal to do this—let’s stop it now.”

I want to speak in favour of new clause 1 and new schedule 1, which call for independent advocacy and citizen involvement in decision making in public services. I commend my hon. Friends the Members for Walthamstow (Stella Creasy) and for Cardiff South and Penarth (Stephen Doughty) for proposing them.

I wholly welcome the extension of these rights into the public sector. It is only right that people should be able to seek redress when things go wrong or to expect their complaints about service failure to be treated seriously. It is certainly right that people should have more power to influence decisions made about them by other people. I worry that, as my hon. Friend the Member for Walthamstow said, the Bill in its current form will not allow that to happen as readily as it should.

A number of Labour councils are part of the Co-operative Council Innovation Network, of which I am very proud to be the patron. The councils involved are working together to find new ways to hand power to service users so that they have more control over the services they use and the people and organisations who provide them. That approach is already demonstrating that it can improve outcomes for citizens. One of the lessons those councils have learned is that handing people more power, on its own, is not enough. Many people who rely heavily on public services do so because they are extremely vulnerable or socially excluded. They lack the capacity or experience to exercise the power made available without additional support to allow them to do so.

Let me offer an example. Personalised budgets are a fantastic opportunity to give more control to people who rely heavily on care services such as home helps, day care, or assistance in managing chronic health conditions at home. Yet many of the people offered personalised budgets feel poorly equipped and supported properly to manage them. Research shows that this is one of the reasons why there has not been a higher take-up of personalised budgets, and that is a missed opportunity. The answer is to put in place the support that people need to exercise control. For someone not used to handling relatively large budgets, it can be a frightening experience to be asked to do so, particularly at a time when their health may be failing. Bringing budget-holders together with experienced advocates—people who are on their side and can help them to understand and articulate their real needs—can transform the situation. We need to build people’s capacity to participate in order to make this power meaningful.

Another example is children’s services. Many service users are children who have experienced severe trauma or disruption in their lives. They do not, of course, have any professional experience themselves of running things—they are, after all, children—but that does not mean they cannot take more control, as long as appropriate support is on offer. When I was elected leader of Lambeth council in 2006, the authority’s children’s services were rated by Ofsted as among the worst 3% in the country. By 2012, Ofsted rated exactly the same services as the best in the country by a considerable margin. One of the key reasons for that transformation was the active involvement of children in shaping their own services—but providing those children with support was fundamental in making that process work. That is why the new clause is so important in improving the Bill.

We also need much greater openness and transparency of information and data in public services. People cannot participate in decision making if they do not have full access to information. I was bitterly disappointed to see Croydon council, which covers the constituency I am proud to represent, failing to understand this. It took a decision to sell off the borough’s public libraries to a private developer in secret, behind closed doors. Doing it in that way fuelled public concern that the deal was not in the best interests of residents. That feeling appeared to be justified when the buyers, Laing, quickly sold the libraries on to another developer, Carillion—at a considerable profit, one would assume, but unfortunately we are not allowed to know.

These are public resources and public services, and decisions about them should be transparent and open; the public should be able to participate. At the council I led, I introduced a very simple open data charter which stated that the authority would publish everything that it was not legally prevented from publishing. Once we did that, the public started asking for data in different formats so that they could use them to scrutinise services more thoroughly and propose better ways to run services, and alternative providers to run better services. That approach helped to create community-run parks, a community-run youth services trust, more tenant-led housing estates, and even a new council website designed by the residents who were using it.

However, citizens need support to take advantage of these opportunities, or the potential for change that they offer will never be realised. We need the new clause and the new schedule if we want these powers really to work for everyone and not just for a privileged few.

I should like to speak in favour of new clause 2, which seeks to clarify how the Bill will be implemented and how consumers will be informed of their rights.

In particular, I want to ask some questions of the Minister about the implications for rail services. It was welcome news in Committee when, in responding to a question from my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff South and Penarth (Stephen Doughty), the Minister confirmed that the National Rail conditions of carriage will be refreshed to provide stronger provision for consumers in order to make them consistent with the rights set out in this Bill. The operators’ trade body, the Rail Delivery Group, has said:

“The Conditions of Carriage are under review. They will be published by the end of the year and will be fully compliant with the Consumer Rights Bill.”

It also said:

“They’ll be more consumer-friendly in terms of the language used”.

That will be a huge improvement from the passenger’s point of view.

I have a number of questions about how this implementation will be carried out. Do the Government intend to conduct a wider review of the passenger protections in the National Rail conditions of carriage? They could use the Bill as an opportunity to strengthen passenger rights where, for example, the train operator fails to provide passenger assistance, which is so important for disabled passengers; where someone finds that the seat reservations on their train are not being honoured; where there are planned engineering works that the operator could have known about in advance but has not informed people about; or where someone finds on arriving at the station that part of the journey they expected to be by train will be on a replacement bus service.

If the intention is to carry out this wider review of the National Rail conditions of carriage, why has Passenger Focus so far been excluded? Can the Minister guarantee that there will be no watering down of passenger protections in the National Rail conditions of carriage that may be additional to the protections provided in the Bill? All the consumer protections in the Bill are subject to parliamentary scrutiny, and the public have had an opportunity to influence them and have a view on them. Changes to the National Rail conditions of carriage are not usually subject to such public consultation, but this is an unusual circumstance. Will the Minister clarify whether the proposed revisions to the National Rail conditions of carriage to make them consistent with the Bill should be subject to public consultation?

I have a few more questions about implementation and the consequent need for further guidance, as set out in the new clause. The National Rail conditions of carriage do not apply to light rail systems such as the Docklands light railway or the London underground, where separate conditions of carriage are set out by Transport for London. Have the Government made an assessment of the various light rail conditions of carriage? Do Ministers plan to exclude them from the rights in the Bill, as with the National Rail conditions of carriage, or, indeed, to do something different about them?

There are also a number of issues concerning equivalent protections and how they will be met. At present, under the National Rail conditions of carriage, a passenger is entitled to a full refund only if they decide not to travel after the service is cancelled or delayed or when a reservation is not honoured and the ticket is unused. Passengers are entitled to partial refunds if they decide not to travel for other reasons, but they are subject to a £10 administration charge. Passengers who start their journey are entitled to compensation of only 20% of the price paid, and only if their service is more than an hour late. Although some rail operators offer a more generous delay/repay compensation scheme, that is not set out in the national rail conditions of carriage.

If passengers are entitled to a repeat performance, as set out in clause 54, on the grounds that the journey was not in accordance with the information given about the service, as outlined in clause 50, will they now be entitled to a full refund? Could that therefore be the stronger provision relating to compensation for consumers that the Minister mentioned when she responded in Committee in March?

I also want clarification on another issue. When passengers are affected by planned possession works by Network Rail, rather than the train operator, they will clearly be receiving a substandard service, but will they be entitled to compensation? I do not think they have such an entitlement at present.

Obviously, I am speaking in my capacity as a Back Bencher rather than from my position on the Front Bench. Many of our constituents are frustrated by their experiences on the railways, and they want to know that the rights set out in the Bill in relation to rail fares and services are being addressed by the Minister and that there is an opportunity to strengthen consumer protections in such an important area of policy.

I want to talk briefly about new clause 3 and new schedule 1, particularly because they relate to the private sector and one of the three sectors named under the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act 2013.

As the hon. Member for Walthamstow (Stella Creasy) has said, this country, like the rest of the world, is undergoing a revolution in data in terms of their volume, richness and accessibility, and, in some ways, their associated risks. There is also a rapidly changing market in price comparison, and the hon. Lady has referred to some of the benefits that can accrue from that. The development of that market is not entirely benign and is certainly not without cost. There are two opposing forces: consumers’ ability to compare prices and services side by side tends to bring prices down, but the nature of the marketing—the branding land grab, the cost of advertising and particularly the pay-per-click auction model on the internet—tends to drive costs and therefore prices up. It is certainly true, however, that price comparison has great potential to make markets work better. I am very proud of everything the Government are doing with midata to help make that a reality.

One market that does not work at all is one of the three mentioned in the 2013 Act: retail banking current accounts. The actual cost to consumers of having a current account is, on average, £152 a year, but nobody we talk to, including informed consumers and even Members of this House, knows that. Whenever we talk about “free” banking, we should use inverted commas, because, of course, there is no such thing as free banking. If consumers could see how much they are actually paying, both explicitly in behavioural charges and implicitly through forgone interest, the retail banking market would work better because there would be more diversity and competition.

Critically and perhaps even more importantly—this touches on some of the new clauses and amendments we will debate later—the fact that people do not know how much their banking is costing them inhibits the development of new retail banking products. Such products include budgeting bank accounts—so-called jam jar accounts—for which people have to pay a fee, but through which they are much less likely to tip into debt, because they make it easier to budget money and also that tiny bit easier to save a small amount.

New clause 3 is not necessary because progress is already being made. The powers already exist.

The hon. Lady shakes her head, but the powers already exist under the 2013 Act. The Government are looking for voluntary progress, which I think is the right way to proceed on reforming markets. A review of progress is due about now, and I hope the Government will continue to do what they are doing. They have the reserve right to push for more and have said explicitly that if not enough is being done, they will consult on the wording of regulations in order to make those markets work better compulsorily. That is the right approach, as opposed to jumping the gun.

I rise to speak in support of new clause 4, which is in my name. Unlike other Members present, I was not familiar with this Bill until recently. I did not serve on the Bill Committee. The Minister may recall that I asked her an oral question two or three months ago about issues relating to warranties and additional warranties sold by retailers. My question arose not only from a specific constituency case, but from the related concerns of a number of constituents who have contacted me over the past three or four years.

In her response, the Minister drew my attention to this Bill, which was in Committee at the time, and suggested that I should look to it for comfort, so I did. I also read the Committee’s debates on warranties. My hon. Friend the Member for East Lothian (Fiona O'Donnell) is in her place and I recall from my reading of the proceedings that she raised some issues relating to electronic goods. She mentioned her experience in the past and I think she said that the situation may have improved since then. However, I tabled new clause 4 because of an experience that demonstrates that that is certainly not true in all cases.

My hon. Friend the Member for Walthamstow (Stella Creasy) has already referred to the implementation group, which seems to be the catch-all for everything that is going to happen at some unspecified point in the future. I understand that the intention behind the group is that it will ensure that legislated rights are translated into something meaningful for consumers. It is entirely right and appropriate for the new clause to seek to ensure that the implementation group should provide, at a specific point after the Bill receives Royal Assent, guidance on some specific issues.

Constituents tell me that what they are actually sold often turns out to be very different from what they were told they were being sold, particularly on additional or supplementary guarantees and warranties. A retailer will often tell them that what they are being sold will enhance their consumer protection and enjoyment of the product and provide them with a safeguard. It then turns out, however, that there is nothing more in the warranty than that to which they are already legally entitled or what is included in the manufacturer’s own warranty.

Does my hon. Friend agree that it is not just that the warranties are sometimes mis-sold, but that companies such as BrightHouse in the rent-to-own market make it compulsory for new customers to take out a warranty when they may already have their own household insurance on those goods?

My hon. Friend makes a very important point about that specific market. I am also aware, as a result of talking to my constituents, that there is almost an expectation on people working for other retailers to sell these warranties, even if it is not obligatory for consumers to have them. In some cases, they even receive a commission for doing so.

That leads me to my concern about a specific case, in which what was written in the signed document was clear, but the way in which the warranty was described and explained to the consumer certainly was not clear and was very different. In that case, a constituent of mine bought a television set from a high street electrical store. He was told that the additional warranty he took out—on top of the manufacturer’s one—would entitle him to a new set if anything went wrong within the five-year period. His television set broke down during that period, but he found in the small print that he was only entitled to a repair or a replacement, which was exactly the same as the manufacturer’s guarantee. That meant that, on the basis of what he was told in the store, he had paid what for him was a significant amount of money every month for something that was effectively worthless.

Fundamentally, I believe that retailers have a duty to consumers not to sell them products that they know to be worthless, which appears to be the case if a warranty simply duplicates existing rights. Warranties very often apply to electronic goods that are significantly expensive, so we can see how a consumer could easily be persuaded to pay for an expensive warranty scheme that delivers no extra benefit, as the retailer is often probably very well aware. That is an area on which the implementation group should certainly undertake some work. Some provisions in the Bill—for example, clause 30—relate to warranties, but they do not seem to cover that point.

In that case, I took up the issue with both the company and my local trading standards office. The trading standards office was very sympathetic, but the long and short of it is that such practices are entirely legal, and there is nothing it can do other than to advise people to be more aware next time. That will not be much comfort for someone who has spent a significant amount of money on something that does not meet their expectations or provide the protection to which they think they are entitled. I of course understand that this problem is not new—it was raised several times in Committee as well as previously in the House—but the implementation group should be charged with ensuring that it is dealt with, and the new clause presents an opportunity for that to happen.

My new clause also addresses the management of deposits. I tabled it after a local small business approached me about an account held with a telecommunications firm— TalkTalk. As many hon. Members will be aware from their constituents, telecommunications contracts for small businesses often require quite sizeable deposits. My constituent was asked to provide a bond of some £900.

The size of such deposits has been a subject of interest for the regulator. I draw the House’s attention to the outcome of a dispute between Apple Telecom Europe Ltd and BT on the level of security deposit required for services, in which Ofcom stated that it was unwilling to determine what an appropriate deposit might be. In the light of that, it is clear that the regulator is not currently prepared to step into that space, but the size of some deposits places a clear responsibility on policy makers to ensure that the rights of the consumer or service user are protected.

After terminating the contract, two issues arose for my local business: first, TalkTalk was in no hurry to return the deposit; and, secondly, when it did return the deposit, it did so without any interest. On the first point, TalkTalk made it clear that it would hold on to the bond beyond the end of the agreed three-year contract. Effectively, it intended to hold on to the bond or deposit until my constituent ceased to be a customer, at which point the onus was on my constituent to write to TalkTalk to request the return of the money. My sense is that the responsibility in that scenario is the wrong way round. It places all the obligation on the consumer, and all the potential benefit of not meeting the obligation on the retailer. Because the retailer was not required to return a bond in a timely fashion, it is clear that my constituent missed out on substantial interest payments on the £900. Given that such contracts may well be for significant lengths of time and may then be renewed, the money amounts to a significant figure over time, particularly for small businesses; it is far from trivial.

My new clause addresses both concerns by requiring the implementation group to report on the length of time for which a retailer may retain a bond after the termination of a contract and on the payment of interest on the money. It would not be unduly burdensome for the company to be required to place bonds in a separate account, the interest on which could be returned to the consumer at the end of the contracted term. I am sure that the Minister is aware of the significant precedents for interest to be paid on money that is held. For example, solicitors are required to place moneys they hold on trust for a client in separate interest-bearing accounts, as is made clear in the professional code of ethics given in the Solicitors Regulation Authority handbook. Equivalent provisions cover other professions in which businesses hold money on trust—for example, an accountant who holds funds for a client to settle a forthcoming tax bill. Beyond such examples, it is clear that there is a substantial licence for abuse. There have recently been concerns in the energy market about moneys retained from excessive direct debit payments. One of the Minister’s colleagues in another Department described it as unacceptable, and said that something needed to be done about it, and the same case can be made in relation to my concerns.

I am conscious that the guidance and regulation arising from the work of the implementation group will not apply retrospectively, and so will not be of direct benefit to those involved in the two cases that I have outlined. However, their experience carries important lessons for all of us to bear in mind, and their cases might and probably will be repeated along the same lines. For that reason, I implore the Minister to look sympathetically at new clause 4. I hope that she will see that it is about enhancing the rights of consumers who, in many regards, have been and are being given poor advice and are not getting the service that I am sure she and all other hon. Members would expect.

The work of the implementation group will obviously be significant, given the number of times that the Minister has referred to it in Committee, and I am sure that she will mention it again this afternoon. It is important that the implementation group get on and deliver something, as the many people who have been following the progress of the Bill will expect. The new clause represents just one way in which there is a very clear path for the implementation group to follow in taking some action to benefit consumers and small businesses across the whole of the UK.

We have had quite a wide-ranging debate, which has been the case during many of the discussions on the Bill, because it covers so many issues. It is telling that the Opposition have tabled very few amendments; today, we are mainly discussing new clauses that attempt to add provisions to the Bill.

I want first to pause for a moment to reflect on the Bill, which has generally been accepted across the House as a good piece of legislation. It will benefit consumers—all consumers—and by setting out key consumer rights in one place, it will empower consumers. As we discussed several times in Committee, well-informed and confident consumers can experiment and shop around, which drives innovation, boosts competition and creates growth. The entire suite of consumer law reforms are estimated to be worth more than £4 billion to the UK economy over 10 years. Including the impact on consumers, business and the public sector, the Bill will generate £1.5 billion and the associated secondary legislation will generate more than £2.7 billion of benefit.

Some public services will attract rights and remedies under the Bill, as we discussed at length in Committee. That will be the case if there is a contract between the consumer and a public body for the provision of products that are within its scope, because the definition of a trader is wide enough to capture the activities of any Department and local or public authority. Consumers of public services provided under a contract will therefore benefit from clearer rights, clearer remedies and, ultimately, better outcomes. I think that we would probably all agree that that is a good thing.

What we are not doing—in a moment, I will explain why it is right and proper not to do it—is to change which public services are covered by consumer law. Public services that are currently subject to the Supply of Goods and Services Act 1982 and the Sale of Goods Act 1979 will be covered by the Bill. I will now turn to public services that are not covered by its provisions because such services are not provided under contract to a consumer. They include most NHS care, state-funded education and law enforcement services.

Let me be very clear: those consumers are nevertheless protected, and in a way that will often provide more tailored, specific and appropriate safeguards, designed to fit the particular service. Many of the tailored regimes already incorporate just the sort of protections that Opposition Members are pressing for—independent advocacy, regular reporting and established ombudsman schemes. In some cases, the protections already in place are similar to those provided by the Bill. For example, the rights that are consolidated in the NHS constitution are very similar to those in general consumer law, but are tailored for the provision of health care.

Where the protections are not similar, consumers benefit from even greater protection. Several sectors have well-established alternative dispute resolution services. For example, the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman, the local government ombudsman and the housing ombudsman play an important role as key, respected arbiters for complaints about care, treatment or choice in public services.

The Government share the desire of the hon. Member for Walthamstow (Stella Creasy) to improve consumer input into the delivery of public services. We are committed to further improving how the public sector uses complaints and feedback to improve service provision. In October last year, my right hon. Friend the Minister for Government Policy announced two further pieces of work to do just that. The first follows his recognition that UK Governments have not made nearly enough use of complaints as a tool for identifying systemic problems. He has set up a review of how Government Departments, agencies and public services can use patterns of complaints to improve the services that they offer.

The recent Public Administration Committee report on citizens and public services raises some very interesting issues, as well as revisiting some that have been looked at before, about how complaints could be used as tools to drive change for the good. We will consider carefully whether the approach that the Committee recommends is right for consumers and the public, and will focus on what might be the practical and delivery considerations of its ideas.

Secondly, my right hon. Friend the Minister for Government Policy will take a wider look at the role and powers of the public sector ombudsmen, and consider the case for a single public sector ombudsman. The Government are grateful to the Public Administration Committee for its inquiry on that issue. That report, alongside the Committee’s recent report on complaints, will be a valuable contribution to the Government’s ongoing consideration of the ombudsman landscape and complaint handling. On both those matters, my right hon. Friend will report to the Prime Minister in the summer. The Government will respond to the Committee’s reports in due course.

We prioritise making sure that consumers know their rights. That means all consumers, whether of public or private services and whether public services are provided under contract or under a tailored regime. Consumers of public services have access to advice, information and advocacy from Government-funded channels such as Citizens Advice and There are other bodies, such as Age UK, that act as consumer advocates, especially for more vulnerable consumers.

The Citizens Advice remit covers benefits, housing, employment, debt and money, consumer, tax, discrimination, health care and wider individual legal problems, as well as other issues. It has a very broad remit. It is right that consumers have a central source of advice and, if necessary, can be signposted to other help, where it is needed.

Does the Minister believe that public library users in Croydon should have a right to know why the council chose to sell the libraries off to one bidder rather than another, and that it should have taken that decision publicly, rather than in private?

Obviously, I cannot comment on the situation in Croydon because I do not know the details. However, the Government are committed to freedom of information and, in a moment, I will talk about the access to data and information that we are supporting in the private and public sectors.

We fully recognise that sometimes more intensive support is needed, above and beyond the advice that is given by Citizens Advice. That is why the patient advice and liaison service offers confidential advice, support and information on health-related matters. There are already independent third-party adjudicators in the public sector, for example at HMRC. Those systems exist to support consumers, often the most vulnerable, in making a complaint and having their voice heard.

There is a serious danger that mandating others to provide a service that overlaps what is in place will confuse, rather than strengthen, the landscape. We need to continue to make public services more responsive to end users, not dilute the central role of Citizens Advice and hinder its ability to act as a key advice agency by creating bureaucracy. We all share the vision of public services provided to a high standard, where consumer feedback and consumer choice work to push up standards. However, we do not need to bring them all within the ambit of the Bill to achieve that.

The transparency of data in the public sector, which has been raised by hon. Members, is a priority for the Government. In many areas, transparency is much more advanced in the public sector than in the private sector. Consumers of public services have access to a wealth of data, such as crime statistics and educational standards. Those all work to empower consumers, promote choice and accountability, and, ultimately, raise standards.

Let me make it clear that the Government support the principle that the public should have access to the data that are held on them. That is in line with our open data policies and activities, and with the approach that we are taking to the negotiations on the European data protection regulations. We embrace the principle that where social benefits can be obtained from anonymised data sets—so-called “big data”—that should be supported. That is why, alongside the midata programme, which is concerned with commercially held data, we are exploring how the data that are held on individuals by Departments might be made available to those individuals in a useful way. That work is in its early stages, but it is designed to address just the sort of issues that we have been discussing today.

As the hon. Member for Walthamstow said, we have been reviewing the progress with the voluntary approach that has been taken to the midata programme so far. I plan to announce the results of the review shortly, but in the meantime I can report that there was an encouraging development in March. In the personal current accounts sector, which was raised by the hon. Member for East Hampshire (Damian Hinds), we have secured a commitment from the big banks to provide customers’ transaction records—their midata—as downloadable files with a consistent format. That has been called for by Which? and the comparison sites. It is encouraging that by the end of the year the vast majority of current account holders in the UK will have access to their midata files. I hope that that reassures the hon. Gentleman on the points that he has raised.

We are working with all the parties involved to ensure that tools are available to use those files. We are confident that this approach will help consumers to compare more easily what is on offer in terms of price and service. As was highlighted by the hon. Member for East Hampshire, there is clearly a lot more to be done to encourage consumers to switch. We hope that by providing the information and working with comparison sites, we can ensure that that happens more often.

Our central objective is that the Bill should deliver rights that are much easier for consumers to understand and use. It is a vast improvement in terms of the simplicity of the language and the consistency of approach. However, we recognise that traders need to know their forthcoming responsibilities in good time before the Bill comes into force, and consumers need practical guidance with real-life examples of how the legislation works. Achieving that quality of communication is a significant challenge and requires planning, which we have been doing.

As hon. Members have highlighted and as we discussed many times in Committee, we have been working with an implementation group to develop appropriate guidance and effective channels of communication. The group is making progress and we will publish a timetable later this year setting out when the parts of the work will be done. We intend to have guidance for businesses available soon after Royal Assent, and it will be available for consumers when the legislation comes into force to ensure that people are able to access and understand their rights.

Will the Minister confirm whether the implementation group is looking at the specific issues that I raised: the retention of bonds and interest payments for small businesses, and additional warranties that are sold by retailers that do not provide any additional benefit to the consumer?

If the hon. Gentleman will bear with me, I will come to those matters later in my speech and address the points that he raised.

With an increasing number of consumers shopping online, will online traders have any duties under the Bill to provide information about consumers’ rights?

I am happy to repeat the question—it might even be better this time. Will the Minister say whether, with an increasing number of people shopping online, there will be a duty on online traders to provide consumer rights information to their consumers?

I apologise to the hon. Lady. That was a very sensible question. That is being looked at. As she says, more and more people are buying online, so this is an important outlook for retailers. We need to ensure that consumers are aware of their rights, whether they are buying things on the high street or online. As we discussed in Committee, some requirements are being introduced in June that will provide more information and safeguards for consumers who purchase items online. The implementation group is looking at all the ways in which consumers buy goods and services to ensure that they are protected and know what their rights are.

The hon. Member for Nottingham South (Lilian Greenwood) asked a number of questions about rail conditions of carriage, but such questions would be much more properly put to the Department for Transport. If I may, I will direct her points to Ministers in that Department and ask them to write to her with details of how the conditions of carriage are being reviewed. That is not a matter for the Bill but it is being considered by the Department for Transport, and I will ensure that her points are raised.

In Committee the Minister said that although rail services are excluded from the Bill, it was intended that any rights introduced by the Bill be incorporated in the rail conditions of carriage to ensure that consumers were no worse off as a result of that exclusion. How will she ensure that that is implemented?

I understand that rail conditions of carriage are more detailed and already go further than the fundamental backstop rights in the Bill. However, the Department for Transport is reviewing them, and I will ensure that her questions are passed to Ministers so that she receives a more detailed answer. We will ensure that the Bill is not confused with the rail conditions of carriage, and that they take primacy.

The hon. Member for Rutherglen and Hamilton West (Tom Greatrex) raised an important constituency case, and I understand why he wished to do that. It concerned a business that had to pay a deposit for a telecoms contract, but the Bill does not affect business-to-business rights; it is about consumer rights and affects consumer-to-business rather than business-to-business contracts. I cannot comment specifically on the case, but it would probably not be covered by the Bill since it is a business case. Generally, however, we are doing more to protect deposits that are paid under contract.

Under the Bill, if a consumer enters into a contract for services and pays a deposit but then cancels, the trader does not have a free hand to retain that deposit. Any term in a contract that allows a trader to retain a deposit must be transparent and prominent to avoid challenge in the courts on grounds of fairness. Where such terms do not also provide equivalent compensation for the consumer when the trader dissolves the contract, they are liable to be challenged as unfair, even if they are transparent and prominent.

Our reforms also include clearer cancellation rights in consumer contracts regulations for consumers who buy at a distance or at home. Consumers must be informed that they have 14 days to change their mind and cancel such contracts, and a trader must reimburse them within 14 days of being informed by the consumer about a cancellation of the services. Those regulations will come into force in June, which will give consumers additional protection.

The Minister is generous in giving way again. Is she not missing the point that my hon. Friend the Member for Rutherglen and Hamilton West (Tom Greatrex) made, which was that the Government missed an opportunity to protect small businesses in the Bill, to treat them as consumers and give them those rights? That £900 can be the difference between a business sinking or swimming.

As the hon. Lady will remember, we discussed this issue at length in Committee. The Government consulted on whether small businesses should be covered by consumer legislation in 2008 and 2012, and on both occasions the result of that consultation was that they should not be. Recent work by the Federation of Small Businesses considered whether micro-businesses should be covered by consumer law, and it too came to the conclusion that they should not be. There is work to be done on the protection of micro-businesses, and some regulators are considering treating them in a similar way. However, the Government consultation on consumer law resolved that it was far more complicated to include micro-businesses as consumers, and that was not the response to the consultation.

The hon. Member for Rutherglen and Hamilton West raised the issue of guarantees being sold with products. Consumer protection regulations already prohibit traders from presenting statutory rights as a distinctive feature of their offer, so a guarantee that offered no more than a consumer’s statutory rights would already be prohibited. We have now made it easier for consumers to get their money back when they have been mis-sold something to which they already have a legal right.

Extended warrantees can offer consumers valuable additional benefits if done properly, such as accidental damage cover, regular servicing and so on. Before consumers buy extended warrantees in the shop at the same time as buying electrical goods, they must be informed of their statutory rights and their right to cancel the extended warranty. In 2012 the Office of Fair Trading found recent significant improvements in the market, and although we recognise that there have been issues in the past, more and more consumers are now shopping around when looking at warranties. That is driving competition between warranty providers, which seems to be increasing quality and lowering price.

Will the Minister elaborate on how that would affect customers of organisations such as BrightHouse and PerfectHome, where the cost of an extended warranty is included in the price of the goods and is compulsory? What rights do those customers have to cancel and get some money back, apart from giving back the goods?

The issue is whether extended warrantees provide anything over and above the statutory rights provided under the law. If companies charge more just to provide statutory protection, that would be prohibited under consumer protection regulations. A purchase that somebody would make, such as a hire purchase or whatever, would depend on the terms of their contract. If the contract contains terms that are unfair, they may well be on the grey list—we will come to that in future discussions on the Bill—and such terms may be challengeable in the courts on grounds of fairness. If the hon. Lady is concerned about specific terms in the Bill, she might raise them at that specific point in our debate to see whether they would be covered.

I am grateful to the Minister for giving way again but I raised another point, to which she did not respond. It concerns what happens if a consumer buys a product with a manufacturer’s warranty and is then sold a supplementary warranty by a retailer, which does nothing more than the manufacturer’s warranty. Is that an issue on which the implementation group will be able to provide information for consumers?

That is the point I just made. If a warranty provides no more than the statutory rights and there is a charge associated with it, whoever is selling the warranty may well be in breach of consumer protection regulations. When shops sell goods and the warranty is purchased at the same time, the full cost must be disclosed and consumers must be informed of their statutory rights. Consumers also have the right to cancel the extended warranty within a set period, and those rights must be made known to the consumers when they purchase the warranty. That is covered under consumer protection regulations, and there are also rights in this Bill. The circumstances that the hon. Gentleman highlights would be covered.

The other issue raised today is nuisance calls, which is a priority for the Government. I am sure that all hon. Members have had constituency casework on that, but there is no silver bullet to eradicate the problem. That is why in our action plan of 30 March we set out a range of measures to address the issue. They included work that is already under way to improve call tracing, making it easier to disclose information between Ofcom and the Information Commissioner’s Office, and setting up a taskforce led by Which? to review consumer consent issues. We will also consult on making it easier for the Information Commissioner’s Office to tackle nuisance calls as part of amending the Privacy and Electronic Communications (EC Directive) Regulations 2003. Although I understand the intention behind the new clause, the Government are taking a lot of action in this area. Changes will be introduced in the next months, and we are consulting on more actions. I hope that I have covered the issues raised by hon. Members, and I therefore ask the hon. Member for Walthamstow to withdraw her new clause.

The Minister expressed surprise that some of these issues should have been the subject of new clauses. I am sad about that. In her responses, she is missing some of the debates that we had in Committee on just these issues—not just on implementation but on the impact of the Bill on the public sector. I am saddened that she has not answered what I call the Graham Norton question about the licence fee. We will take that as a yes, meaning that licence fee payers will be entitled to these rights.

The Minister said that a review of complaints is ongoing and talked about the role of the public sector ombudsman. This is what is causing so much concern and has prompted the new clauses. That is happening at the same time as this legislation is making progress, so a whole series of new legal methods of redress will be open to licence fee payers, personal care budget holders and students paying tuition fees. At the same time, a secondary process is being undertaken in government. The situation is confusing.

I am pleased that the Minister’s understanding of consumer rights in the public sector—and what they can offer—is evolving. In that sense, I am happy to give her the benefit of the doubt in what she says about new clause 2 and the implementation group. I am sure that the Lords will want to hear about its further progress. I am also happy to give her the benefit of the doubt about advocacy. Her conversion to the importance of advocacy is welcome: it was not clear in Committee, but it is wonderful to hear her talking about it now. She has been dragged kicking and screaming to the debate, and I refer to the comments made by my hon. Friends the Members for Croydon North (Mr Reed), for Makerfield (Yvonne Fovargue) and for Rutherglen and Hamilton West (Tom Greatrex), and even the hon. Member for East Hampshire (Damian Hinds) about the importance of advocacy and what more should be done in the Bill.

On that basis, I am happy not to press new clause 5 to a vote, but I will press new clause 3 and new schedule 1, given what the Minister said about information. I have to point out to the hon. Member for East Hampshire that the Government have admitted that the midata project has stalled. The look on his face spoke volumes about the problems of getting access to those data. The Minister said that the Government thought that people should have access to the data they create within the public sector: the Opposition think that people should own their own data. It is a clear dividing line.

New clause 3 and new schedule 1 set out some clear rights for people. On nuisance calls, the Minister said the Government are already doing something. Why does she oppose paragraph 5 of new schedule 1, which would place sanctions on those people who do not have consent, to send a clear message to the companies that are abusing the information that they have? It is beyond me. The issue of ownership of data is key, so we will press new clause 3, which would bring in new schedule 1, to a vote. The British public should not just have access to their data; they should own it. It is a clear division between the two parties on consumer and citizen rights, and an increasingly important debate for this country. I beg to ask leave to withdraw the motion.

Clause, by leave, withdrawn.

New Clause 3

Access to data

‘Schedule [Access to data] has effect.’.—(Stella Creasy.)

Brought up, and read the First time.

Question put, That the clause be read a Second time.

New Clause 6

Payday lenders levy

‘The Secretary of State shall produce an annual report on the level at which a levy on lenders in the high cost consumer credit market should be set and bring forward measures to ensure—

(a) provision of free debt advice for vulnerable consumers; and

(b) provision of affordable alternative credit through credit unions.’.—(Stella Creasy.)

Brought up, and read the First time.

With this it will be convenient to discuss the following:

New clause 7—Debt management plan regulation—

‘The Financial Conduct Authority shall bring forward recommendations within a year of the commencement of this Act regarding the practice of directly charging consumers fees or charges for the provision of debt management plans, including recommendations on the phasing out of such practices.’.

New clause 9—Credit broker fees—

‘(1) The Consumer Credit Act 1974 is amended as follows.

(2) In section 160A (Credit intermediaries) after subsection (4) insert—

“(4A) Persons engaged in credit intermediary activity under this section or credit broking activity under section 145 shall not charge or take any fee from a debtor in respect of these activities until such time as an introduction results in the debtor entering into a relevant agreement.”.’.

New clause 11—Practices of rent to own companies—

‘(1) This section applies to credit agreements and consumer hire agreements taken out in respect of household goods specified in rules by the Financial Conduct Authority.

(2) The rules under subsection (1) shall—

(a) include a requirement on lenders to include in pre-contractual information adequate explanations and information allowing prospective customers to compare both the cash price of goods and the total cost of the credit agreement to a representative retail price for those goods;

(b) prohibit lenders from requiring customers to take out insurance sold or brokered by the lender as a condition of obtaining credit;

(c) set out specific steps lenders must take before taking action to enforce the agreement or recover possession of goods; and

(d) set out the steps lenders should take to check that the agreement is affordable and suitable for prospective consumers.’.

New clause 23—Consumer credit: bill of sale—

‘(1) Where a person is a purchaser of goods subject to a bill of sale, made in connection with a regulated agreement under the Consumer Credit Act 1974, in good faith and without notice of the bill of sale, title to those goods shall pass to that person.

(2) A creditor is not entitled to enforce a bill of sale made in connection with a regulated agreement by recovering possession of the goods except through an order of the court.

(3) If goods are recovered by the creditor in contravention to subsection (2)—

(a) the bill of sale will be treated as invalidly made; and

(b) the debtor shall be released from any outstanding liability under the regulated agreement.

(4) If the creditor has disposed of goods taken in contravention of subsection (2) the debtor shall be compensated to the value of those goods.’.

The new clauses lie at the heart of consumer issues: if consumers have no money in their pockets, they will not do very much consuming. A personal debt crisis is brewing because millions of people are trying to make ends meet and pay for the debt they took on to try to make ends meet previously. Household debt is at its highest since 2009, with people owing £1.6 trillion in personal debt. Some 43% of us say that we often or sometimes struggle to make it to payday—little wonder, given the way in which the cost of living has escalated. The new clauses come into play because debt repayment is increasingly the reason that people struggle to make it to payday. They reflect an attempt not to continue the good work that has been done in this House to address the consumer credit market, but to recognise that the Government’s belated conversion to the Opposition’s approach on payday lending needs to be just the start of the conversation on how we ensure that people have the pounds in the pocket they need. This is intrinsic to our economic future, given that consumer spending has accounted for so much of the growth we are now seeing. That, in itself, is perhaps one of the problems we face.

Let me explain the new clauses I wish to speak to today, because I know that other Members want to speak to the new clauses they propose. New clause 6 concerns what Members might call my bête noir—payday lenders. There are now 8 million loans annually, which are worth £2.2 billion. Those loans come with a cost. The National Audit Office estimates that they cost consumers £450 million a year of direct consumer harm, because of the failure to regulate the payday lending industry. For several years we proposed regulation of the industry, but it will come in only next year.

One in 10 British adults are likely to take out a payday loan in the next six months. That figure is going up, not down. It is little wonder that companies such as Wonga are making £1 million a week from our constituents—a 36% increase on the previous year—even though it is writing off huge swathes of its loan book. Some 40% of those who took out a payday loan said that it made their financial position worse, but many feel that they have little alternative. Credit unions are desperately trying to fill the gap, but it is an impossible gap to fill with the current level of need. It is time for payday lenders to pay their way. New clause 6 would enable an additional levy to be made on high cost credit companies to ensure that they provide funding for the debt advice and extension of credit unions that this situation requires. In fact, we believe the pressure on debt advice agencies and, indeed, credit unions is likely to increase, not subside, in the years ahead. We therefore think it time for the payday lenders to pay for the damage they have done.

New clause 7 also speaks to the growing personal debt bubble in our society, and to the conduct of the cowboy debt management agencies. We have already talked about legal loan sharks, and now it is time to look at the cowboys, but these are not just the stuff of nightmare. These companies are profiting from the misery of our constituents, exploiting the way in which debt management is done in this country.

The Government themselves admit that in excess of 1 million consumers each year are seeking advice on how best to deal with their financial difficulties. Many of us will know from our constituency surgeries the people who come to us in desperate need, often because they are about to be evicted for falling behind with their rent. We also encounter people who are struggling financially and who need help forming a debt management plan to deal with their creditors. That is the gap that these companies have filled.

About 7% of British adults report struggling to payday due to debt management payment plans, and 6% blame their payday loan problems on debt repayments. Bank loan repayments are the cause of 13% of those who struggle to payday. People are struggling because they are trying to pay back the debts they have accrued, especially over the last couple of years. It equates to about 2.5 million people that we know of who are already in a debt management plan.

Some debt management plans are available free, and I pay tribute to organisations such as Christians Against Poverty and StepChange for the work they are doing in providing people with free debt advice. After all, it is the most perverse of experiences for people struggling with financial debt to be charged to get out of the hole they are in. That is the challenge we are facing. It was estimated in 2010 that commercial debt management companies were making about £250 million a year from over-indebted clients. As I say, that was back in 2010. The Money Advice Service now tells us that there are 9 million people in our country who are over-indebted, so these are the people for whom these sorts of services may well be apposite. The need to reform how they work therefore becomes even stronger.

Ministers admitted in 2002 in response to questioning by the BIS Committee that there was evidence of some abuse of upfront fees, so let us talk about what is meant by that. We have an example from Clear View Finance of a gentleman for whom 90% of the money he was paying to the company was being taken in a fee, so a mere 10% of the money he was paying to clear his debts was going to his creditors—little chance for him to get out of the cycle of debt he was in any time soon! Yet when the Minister admitted that there was such abuse, he said that these companies had a role to play, so there was not really any need for any further regulation of them. We disagree, and we were disappointed when the Government voted in Committee against our proposals to deal with debt management companies.

We recognise that the Financial Conduct Authority has taken over the management of these companies, and it proudly trumpets that it is going to limit to 50% the amount a company can take in fees rather than pay out to creditors. We believe that we should go much further. We do not believe that people should be charged for being in debt when they come forward for help, and we want to see the phasing out of fees for debt management altogether.

Let me provide an example of why that would make a difference. StepChange, which provides this service for free, found that a client with a typical debt of £30,000 would have to pay for a commercial product almost an extra £6,000 in fees—£6,000 over and above the loan repayments. That extended the plan by approximately 18 months in comparison with one that StepChange had put together.

Taken in concert with new clause 6, which would provide the funding to increase debt advice, we believe that we can phase out fees for debt management, and we believe that that is the right thing to do—not to charge people for getting into debt, but to help them get out of debt. As millions of Britons are already in this cycle and millions more are likely to get into it as interest rates rise and they have increasing problems with their credit card and personal debt repayments coming home to roost, the case for reforming our debt management cowboy firms grows all the stronger.

Finally, new clause 23 speaks to another legal loan sharking practice in this country, which we believe is long overdue for overhauling. Citizens Advice chief executive Gillian Guy has said:

“The logbook industry is still in the dark ages and has been getting away with lawless practices. It is absolutely absurd that a firm should be able to take away someone’s possessions without any due legal process.”

Millions of people are affected, both those who take out logbook loans and those who buy a second-hand car without knowing that there is a charge against it, only to find that the car is being repossessed and that they have no recourse to any legal practice.

The Financial Conduct Authority itself found that some 40,000 consumers had taken out logbook loans in 2013, typically borrowing about £1,000 a time—again, at astronomical interest rates—although lenders were offering loans of up to £50,000 a time on their cars. That was done by means of a bill of sale agreement, an agreement that harks back to the Victorian era and contains no modern consumer protection measures. It is estimated that one in four second-hand cars in this country is sold with an outstanding charge against it as a result of a bill of sale agreement. That means that the company that provides the loan retains ownership of the car, and can therefore repossess it. Even if the new owner is unaware of the loan, if it has not been paid off he will have to forfeit the car.

This is possible only because we allow bill of sale agreements to continue, which is why I am so disappointed that, in Committee, the Minister led her side to vote against our proposals to abolish the present arrangements. We believe that the whole House should look at the matter again. We believe that the case for removing the ability of bill of sale agreements to be abused in this way is overwhelming. The Minister said that there might well be a case for updating the legislation, but that she did not believe that that was a matter for the Bill. Earlier, she had said that she did not believe that the Bill applied to the public sector. She has performed a welcome U-turn, so let us hope that she will also take account of her own words, uttered in 2007. She said then that we needed to crack down on the illegal and unethical practices of some banks, credit card companies and loan companies. If there was ever an example of an unethical practice, it is the way in which such companies use bill of sale agreements. Is it not time to finish the job and end these agreements? New clause 23 would enable us to do that.

I pay tribute to my hon. Friend the Member for Makerfield (Yvonne Fovargue) for all the amendments she has tabled, and for the work she is doing in the industry. She has been trying to clean up the consumer credit market and end the damage that it is doing to many of our constituents. Government Members may laugh at the idea that the cost-of-living crisis is affecting people in our communities, but we see at first hand the way in which consumer credit companies are making a mockery of the idea that we have adequate consumer protection in our country. We believe that the new clauses would go some way towards continuing the conversation.

I intervene on the hon. Lady because I want to put it on record that no Government Members are laughing about anyone who happens to be in debt. Many of us, along with Opposition Members, have worked very hard to deal with issues relating to personal debt, and we are not laughing at all.

I am delighted to hear that the hon. Gentleman takes the issue seriously. I assume that he will support the new clauses, which constitute a recognition of the need to act now. [Interruption.] The hon. Gentleman talks of 13 years, but the growth of the payday lending and logbook loan industries has exploded as people have found that there is too much month at the end of their money. That has been a fact for the last couple of years. The question for all of us now is this: do we sit and argue about these issues, or do we take action? The Bill gives us an opportunity to take action with some very concrete proposals to end fees for debt management companies, to make the payday lenders pay their way, and to deal with the problem of logbook loans.

Let me simply say this to Government Members. They can either put their money where their mouths are and recognise that these problems need to be dealt with, or they can carp and make political points. It is their call, but I know what my constituents would rather see: support for the new clauses.

I have a huge amount of admiration for the hon. Member for Makerfield (Yvonne Fovargue), who tabled new clause 11, and who brings plenty of front-line experience to the House. She has taken a cross-party, constructive and positive approach on a number of issues, and has a good, strong record of influencing the Government’s opinions.

The new clause is, in effect, the BrightHouse clause, and I was moved to come and speak about it because I had seen the company’s recent television advertisements displaying the cost of renting washing machines, televisions and even the sofas on which people could sit while using the other articles they were renting.

There are two parts to the proposals that I urge the Government to seriously consider. The first concerns displaying the total cost, because often the weekly or monthly repayments seem relatively reasonable but once we translate them over the entire period of the loan, we start to realise they can be a very expensive way to purchase an item. The work I have done on the all-party group on financial education for young people was centred on empowering consumers to make informed decisions, and that should also be a priority in respect of consumer credit regulations. It is all about making sure consumers can make an informed decision, and when the facts are displayed in cash terms even those with limited financial ability are able to make a relatively informed decision.

The point about protecting consumers by making sure they can afford the products is also important. We are moving towards that in the high-cost lending market. It is what we do with bank loans, for instance, and I do not think it is unreasonable to have it in this context, because this is in effect a loan, as until the person has completed the purchase—until they have paid 100% of those monthly or weekly costs—the item is not theirs. If they fall over at the 99% stage, it is returned. It is therefore in effect a loan that gives the person something at the end, so there should be protection because all too often consumers who have no chance of completing 100% of the payments are getting themselves into an expensive way of accessing items. There is merit in those two particular areas and I hope the Government will give them serious consideration.

I am chair of the all-party group on debt and personal finance and we have done constructive work on many of these issues. I support the new clauses and I am pleased that new clause 23 addresses the Victorian practice of bills of sale. They are used for a purpose for which they were never intended. That does not just affect those who take out a loan by using them; it also affects people who do everything they can to check hire purchase information and the credit agreement on the car in question but who do not know their car can still be taken at any time.

I want to speak to my new clause 9, which deals with the problem of credit broking firms. I believe they are the new wild west in this area. They offer, for a fee, to find consumers a loan. In too many cases they take the fees from the consumer and do not give them a service at all, or they find them an unsuitable loan that they do not want. Under some circumstances consumers can get a partial refund, but they often struggle to get these firms to give the refund.

There was a super-complaint by Citizens Advice in 2011 and the Office of Fair Trading concluded:

“At the first available opportunity, the Government should carry out an impact assessment to establish whether legislative change would effectively address the consumer detriment caused by upfront fees in the credit brokerage sector both in the immediate and longer term, including considering a ban on credit brokers charging upfront fees”.

The Government declined to do this, saying that the new OFT guidance issued in response to the super-complaint should be given time to work. It has had two years to work and I am still getting evidence of problems.

I would like to mention a recent constituency case that caused me to look into the practice of one particular company, Myloan. The 18-year-old daughter of a constituent tried to get a loan; unbeknown to her mother and father, she was desperate. She went to Myloan in January. She completed the process and was advised that it could not loan to her, but she had given it her bank account details because it said it would find her a loan. It took the 16-digit number, the security number and an application fee of £68.99. It then processed the application. It sent her details off to 13 other companies. No companies offered her a loan, yet every company took an application fee, and she ended up a further £375 in debt. The majority of that money was taken within nine days of the initial approach. She was 18 and she did not know what would happen if she did this. It is clear that she was taken advantage of by this company.

I looked into this company and there were pages and pages of complaints on the internet of it taking fees and people not getting loans. We need to act now to stop vulnerable consumers being cheated by these companies.

I now wish to deal with the BrightHouse clause, which was mentioned by the hon. Member for North Swindon (Justin Tomlinson). It deals with companies that offer household goods to customers on a rent-to-own basis, whereby, again, they make weekly payments and own the product only once the final payment is made. I am using BrightHouse as an example because it is the largest rent-to-own company in the United Kingdom. It has more than 270 stores and plans to expand at a rate of about one a fortnight. These stores have become a common feature on the high street and tend to be found in more deprived areas. Indeed, it has been remarked that having a BrightHouse store is now a signifier that the area could be deprived, not that BrightHouse’s stores are downbeat or shabby—they look really good.

A TV researcher contacted me about BrightHouse because she had gone into one of its stores to look for a bedside cabinet and was appalled by the amount BrightHouse was charging a week. People who are unable to pay outright for goods and may previously have gone to get a social fund loan now cannot get one and have to use these weekly repayments. They allow customers to pay in small weekly chunks, repayable over several years. That can be convenient but there is a catch or two—if we include the insurance that is included, there is a catch or three. BrightHouse defends adding everything together by saying, “Our target customers are mostly women and they like things simple.” Well this is one woman who does not agree with BrightHouse on that one. Not only do its customers pay a higher price—often higher than is paid in Harrods—but at a typical APR of 69.9% the loan is extortionate. For example, customers can buy an HP Envy 120 all-in-one printer from BrightHouse for £322.23, which will end up costing £520 by the time they have paid £5 a week over 104 weeks, whereas John Lewis has the same product for £149.99.

Obviously, I support the principles being expressed here. The key thing is that the vast majority of consumers would not be able to calculate the total cost with an APR—even Treasury Ministers would struggle to do that—which is why it is so incredibly important to have everything displayed in cash terms. That is the simplest form for any consumer, allowing them to make an informed decision.

I totally agree with that. I do not believe many customers know how over the odds the costs are. They cannot use a comparison, because they do not have the £150 to go to John Lewis to pay the cost straight off. They think that they are paying a bit more, but they are paying a fortune more—they are paying nearly five times as much. My new clause would require stores to set out all the costs, and I make provision in respect of similar goods because BrightHouse has occasionally changed one figure or a letter at the end and said, “There isn’t a comparable good.” There is a comparable good, but BrightHouse has just changed an X or a Y at the end of the goods.

Customers may still choose to shop at BrightHouse —I would not stop them shopping there—but they need to have the full facts. Clearly, low weekly payments are what make BrightHouse seem attractive to so many, but that does not mean they are affordable. BrightHouse encourages its customers to take on more and more loans; I have had reports of people being rung at home with tempting news of the latest in-store arrivals, keeping the customers in a constant cycle of debt. Small weekly payments quickly mount up and become unaffordable. There is talk about people buying the big TVs, but the other problem is that that is the only option in BrightHouse. It does not have the smaller goods; it has the big plasma TVs. BrightHouse does not stock the range of goods that people can shop around for.

I have encountered a case of a customer making weekly payments of £75 to BrightHouse, from a benefits payment of £100 a week—it is no wonder people cannot survive in such circumstances. My new clause would ensure that BrightHouse has to carry out proper affordability checks. We are asking payday lenders to do that, so why should the rent-to-own companies not have to do it as well? Including the insurance does not provide value for money, but people will not challenge it under the unfair contract terms because, in general, the people who go to BrightHouse do not want to challenge and go to court, as it is a frightening experience. So my new clause will ensure that these companies cannot enforce taking out the cover.

The last part of my new clause deals with repossession, because a lot of evidence shows that a missed payment or two leads to the loss of the goods concerned, often without a court order, despite the fact that the customer has paid the true cost of the goods several times over. BrightHouse says that that is done only with the customer’s consent, but many people have been left in dire straits when essential items such as their fridge or washing machine have been taken, often at short notice. The company has a perfect right to take the goods, but there are ways of doing it fairly. My amendment ensures that proper procedures are followed, and that customers are not pressurised into giving back goods for which they have paid a considerable amount. I am not against the services that BrightHouse offers, but I am against a business model that is so stacked against the customer that it amounts to little less than exploitation. There is a huge irony when the poorest in society pay the highest prices. BrightHouse and others like it should give thought to their customers and their ability to pay. Hopefully, this amendment will concentrate their thinking.

It is always a pleasure and an honour to follow the hon. Member for Makerfield (Yvonne Fovargue) who talks not only with passion but with a great deal of knowledge and expertise about these matters. I wish to speak briefly about new clauses 11 and 6. Before I do, may I say that it was a little unfortunate that the remarks of the hon. Member for Walthamstow (Stella Creasy) took the turn that they did at the end? What she said is simply not true, and everybody in this House who takes an interest in these issues, which she certainly does, knows that the sub-prime high-cost credit market has been around for donkey’s years. It has not started—[Interruption.] No, it has not started, or even in its totality dramatically shifted, in the past three years.

The hon. Lady mentioned statistics for payday lending and logbook lending, but, if she was being complete in her analysis, she might have talked about when the big growth spurt came in home credit. She might even have talked about when the growth spurt came in rent to own. Perhaps she would like to take the opportunity to talk briefly about those things now. I would happily take an intervention.

Will the hon. Gentleman clarify whether he voted three times in the House over the past three years against capping the cost of credit and therefore tackling some of these problems? If he recognises that there are problems, is he saying that he will support the new clauses today?

Clearly, I was not saying that. I was asking the hon. Lady whether she wanted to comment on the growth of home credit and rent to own. We have had many opportunities in this House to discuss a cap on the cost of credit, and she and I—and she and many other Members—have had an opportunity to discuss some of the practical aspects. There will now be a cap on the total cost of credit, but that is not to say that the definition of that is without difficulties. It remains a tricky thing to do. All of us, including her, who take a close interest in these issues know that there is no single silver bullet solution that solves any of these market problems. We need regulation, empowerment for consumers, financial education and sensible alternatives. This House is at its best when we are discussing what those practical approaches might be, and I welcome the new clauses, which allow us to talk about those very things. I have an awful lot of sympathy for the sentiment behind new clause 11, which was put forward by the hon. Member for Makerfield, and for what is behind new clauses 7 and 9, but we must be wary about seemingly straightforward legislative solutions that may not deliver all they purport to.

We always talk in the plural when we refer to rent-to-own companies, but in reality there is one really big company. There is a problem with the pricing and marketing of these companies. I have recently been added to the BrightHouse e-mail marketing list. I do not know what I have done to deserve that honour—I am not sure whether I should take it as a compliment—but I am now bombarded with messages saying how easy it is to pay weekly, and it is those messages that go to the heart of the problem. To be fair, the slightly misleading approach that we are talking about does not necessarily apply just to rent-to-own companies. We could say that it applies to every pay-monthly mobile phone contract, through which we not only pay for our calls but finance the phone, but it is never advertised how much is for the phone and how much for the calls. We always see it as one all-together monthly amount.

My hon. Friend is making very measured comments. It is true that no one party has a handle on debt in this debate. Many of us are concerned about the matter. Does he agree that companies such as Emmaus in my constituency have helped to ensure that people do not have to take on ridiculous payback terms, by enabling them to access good refurbished second-hand goods free of charge if their circumstances allow? I pay tribute to companies such as Emmaus that have helped many people in difficulty who need goods.

I am not familiar with Emmaus, but I am sure that it is an admirable organisation. I can mention Furniture Helpline in my constituency, and there are many others throughout the country.

I am listening carefully to what the hon. Gentleman is saying. Affordability is at the root of this issue. It is not only companies such as BrightHouse that concern us—for years, when interest rates were rising, supposedly reputable companies simply extended the time that people had to pay, so that the weekly payments stayed relatively low. That is the real issue at the heart of this.

The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right. [Interruption.] My hon. Friend the Member for St Albans (Mrs Main), who is sitting next to me, mentions catalogues: catalogue credit has worked on that basis for a long time, stressing the weekly repayment amount. There is also an ability to shift the amount that is apparently the cost of the product and how much is paid for the financing—in the case of catalogues, that is often zero, but the base price is inflated to allow for that.

My worry about the approach in the new clause tabled by the hon. Member for Makerfield is that I do not know how we would make the price comparator work. She made an important point about product numbers. As electronic comparison capability increases, it will be important to be able to make a direct like-for-like comparison, and adding an extra letter to a product number to make such comparison impossible should certainly be cracked down on.

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. Many of the goods that are advertised are often own-label brands, and that makes it very hard for consumers to make a direct like-for-like comparison with another branded good.

It is difficult, but if we are talking about a big plasma TV or a washing machine, equivalent products and other brands are also available. The basic problem, however, is not that the information is not available, because the idea that people do not have the ability to make such comparisons becomes less and less true every month, with smartphones and so on. The difficulty relates to money advice, and encouraging and prompting people to make the comparison. We do not solve that problem by adding small-print text about the total cost, the annual percentage rate, the total cost of credit, the reminder that “your house may be at risk”, blah, blah, blah. All those things do not solve the problem of how we encourage people to make that comparison and do the analysis to ensure that they are not worse off than they need to be.

That leads me on to new clause 6 and the so-called

“annual report on the level at which a levy on lenders in the high cost consumer credit market should be set”.

There is a levy that applies to lenders, so I assume that the requirement for a report is a device to call for something that might be in place anyway. Debt advice is also provided. We could argue that, at the high-cost end of sub-prime, such lenders should make a greater contribution, because of the detriment associated with them, but that does not require primary legislation.

The new clause would also have the Government make provision for affordable credit to be available through credit unions. I would argue strongly that the Government have brought and are bringing forward measures to ensure that affordable credit is available to vulnerable customers through credit unions. Through the credit union expansion project, tens of millions of pounds are being made available to modernise and upgrade the sector. Through regulatory reform—the passing, finally, of the legislative reform order—the increase in the monthly interest rate cap from 2% to 3% makes competition with high-cost, short-term lenders a little more possible. Also, as we were discussing, the cap on the interest charged in the commercial sector will at least help to slow the apparently inexorable rise of that sector. There are also things that the social lending sector must do. It has to step up to the plate on its marketing, branding and consistency of product offer. There will have to be consolidation in the sector to provide the services that people want.

I do not know whether the idea behind new clause 6 in the mind of the hon. Member for Walthamstow came from the recent IPPR report, on which she commented, which suggested that a one-off levy on high-cost lenders would facilitate a great expansion in the social lending sector.

Will my hon. Friend speak a little more slowly? The hon. Member for Walthamstow (Stella Creasy), on the Opposition Front Bench, is having trouble tweeting. She is trying to provide a running commentary on his speech and perhaps if he went a little more slowly she would catch up.

I will always follow the hon. Member for Walthamstow, so I shall pay great attention to what she has tweeted after the debate.

I have a lot of sympathy with any measures proposed to help support the growth of the credit union sector. A lot of things in the IPPR report are welcome and positive, such as the idea of having credit unions in post offices, Church of England facilities and so on, but with respect to all concerned I would say that those are hardly first-time-out occurrences of the proposals. A back-stop reclaim facility, through the benefit system, could also have some benefits.

However, the idea—this is the main point—that some huge one-off capitalisation of credit unions would help to facilitate their growth, is not right. Under the previous Government, we had the growth fund, and I am not here to diss that. It was a well-intentioned initiative and will have done a lot of good. Such things are also eroded over time, however, and by definition if one has a big one-off capitalisation one ends up having to address a slightly more costly part of the market, which contributes to that erosion. What we need to do to help support and facilitate the growth of credit unions is what this Government are doing. We are trying to get them on to a sustainable footing with modernised systems, working collaboratively together to get the marketing and branding right so that the sector does not need a subsidy for ever but reaches a scale at which it can address more and more consumers, meaning that fewer and fewer consumers need or want to access the types of lenders we have been discussing today.

Despite appearances, my hon. Friend the Member for Walthamstow (Stella Creasy) and I are not taking part in a mother and daughter catalogue photo shoot later. We should perhaps co-ordinate in future on what to wear when we are both taking part in the same debate.

It is a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for East Hampshire (Damian Hinds). He said that his Government are taking an interest in issues around payday lending. They are certainly taking something, although I am not sure whether it is just an interest. When he criticises Labour, saying that for 13 years we did nothing, he fails to recognise that there has been an incredible growth, certainly in my constituency, in the number of people having to resort to payday lenders. They are having to increase the amount they are borrowing from those lenders as well as their general debt levels. There is a cost of living crisis and poverty is the root cause, and the Government should have acted more quickly. The hon. Gentleman is on the record as having said that self-regulation works, but even he has had to admit that self-regulation of payday lending has not worked and that it is time for action.

Figures reported by StepChange last December showed that among its clients, people seeking debt advice in East Lothian, my constituency, are now saddled with average payday loan debts of £1,864, £466 above the Scottish average.

I want to reassure the hon. Lady that a number of us have worked on a cross-party basis to push for the extra regulation the Government are introducing. At no point were we saying that self-management would be fine. We were pushing for regulation and I am delighted that the Government are taking that forward to protect vulnerable consumers.

I wonder whether I can ask the hon. Gentleman which door he pushed. Was it in the Aye Lobby or the No Lobby when we voted on this issue? Taking an interest is what we do in this House, but it is the action we take that matters. I am not aware of his having rebelled but perhaps I am misjudging him. I will gladly give way to him again on that point.

I am afraid that the hon. Lady is confusing two issues. A huge amount of work has been done by the hon. Member for Makerfield (Yvonne Fovargue), the hon. Member for Sheffield Central (Paul Blomfield) and Members from all three parties. They have come together to influence Government regulation that has been introduced to protect vulnerable consumers. The hon. Lady is simply confusing two issues.

The two issues I am confusing are what people say and what people do.

I want to be helpful to the hon. Member for East Hampshire on the e-mails that he is receiving from BrightHouse. I suggest that he follow up the matter with the Financial Conduct Authority. The last time we debated high-cost loans, I spoke about my experience with Wonga. I had received an e-mail offering me another loan when I was not aware that I had ever had a loan. I was told that the e-mail had not come from Wonga, that it was some kind of fraud and not to worry about it. I have recently taken this up with the FCA, which now has some authority to deal with the issue. I think that the authority will be asking the Government for more powers to get to grips with this. It suggested to me that a fraudulent application for a loan had been made in my name; my contact details were supplied, but Wonga failed to notify me of that and has retained my data on its files, and that is why it has been marketing products to me. He may wish to take up his case with the FCA and perhaps check out his credit rating—as I immediately did, to see whether the application had affected me. I admire his restraint in not rushing from the Chamber at this very moment to do that.

The exploitation that we have seen is plain and simple. Payday loan companies are not called legal loan sharks for no reason. They are predatory. They sniff out hunger, home in on and exploit the difficult situations in which so many of our constituents find themselves. The figures from one of my citizens advice bureaux in Haddington showed that debt-related cases accounted for 51% of its total inquiries from April to June 2013, a rise in East Lothian of more than 40% from the same quarter the previous year. That is why Opposition Members have been urging the Government to do something as quickly as possible. It is why we are saying that the cap needs to be introduced. It is welcome that the Government have changed their mind, but we would like to see that brought forward to 2014. People in my constituency and all our constituencies who are struggling with debt need help now.

While not everyone who borrows using a payday loan gets into difficulties, enough do as a result of the terms of the loan that the industry is now making billions of pounds. When one in three such loans are being used to pay off another payday loan, we need to call time on these lenders breaking their own codes of conduct and step in to reform the industry. It is time to have a levy on the industry so that companies have to give something back to the communities who are swelling their coffers but suffering at the same time. The hon. Member for East Hampshire said that the money suddenly injected into credit unions would not have the impact that we hoped. My constituency is served by a credit union, but it does not have a presence on the high street; it lacks visibility. It works through employers such as East Lothian council encouraging their employees to save with them, but it does not reach the people who wander off the high street into The Cash Store or BrightHouse. A cash injection to the credit union in my constituency to give it a high street presence would tackle the exploitation that I see among the poorest and most vulnerable people.

I understand that Members have worked on a cross-party basis—I will now try to take back some of the earlier sour remarks—but let us not be limited in our ambition today. I hope that they will get behind the new clause and make a difference to the people who are suffering in our constituencies.

This is a useful debate. The trouble with the new clause is that, unless we are careful, if we legislate in haste on complex legal matters, we may be subject to the law of unintended consequences and make things worse. No one denies that a lot of people are under tremendous financial stress, and we all want more transparency. I agree that on many occasions the law needs to be updated.

The hon. Member for Walthamstow (Stella Creasy) talked about bills of sale and described them as a Victorian product. In fact, bills of sale have been around for centuries. The Bills of Sale Act dates from 1878, and was amended in 1882. That does not necessarily mean that bills of sale are wrong in themselves. I looked up the definition of “bill of sale”, which is

“a legal document made by the seller to a purchaser…that on a specific date at a specific locality and for a particular sum of money or other value received, the seller sold to the purchaser a specific item of personal property, or parcel of real property, of which he had lawful possession.”

It is a written instrument which evidences the transfer of title to personal property from the vendor or seller to the vendee or sellee. For instance, a typical bill of sale would be something very simple: “for the sum of X pounds I hereby sell to Larry Smith full ownership of a green John Deere harvester.”

A bill of sale is a simple, historic or traditional way of ensuring the transfer of title. I agree with the hon. Member for Walthamstow that things can become complicated, and that is evidenced in legal sources when a bill of sale is attached to a loan, as it can be used as evidence of a loan and security for a loan; so someone’s car, for instance, may be used as security for a loan.

Just because some bills of sale are misused and some people suffer as a result of the process or are under legal stress, that does not mean that we have to throw a century of careful legal practice and growth out of the window, as we might make things worse. If we over-regulate legal loan providers, we may well force people into the clutches of unregulated loan sharks. My suggestion to the Minister—and I agree that this is a serious problem—is that rather than attack bills of sale, which have been around for a long time and have been used in an entirely reputable and correct way and entirely transparently to transfer ownership, or just throw them out of the window by accepting a new clause that has not been thought through, the issue should go to the Law Commission, which can study all the evidence and practice and ensure that we protect consumers, achieve full transparency, and modernise the law. We should not rush through Acts of Parliament that can make things worse for people under stress and force them into the hands of loan sharks.

I welcome you, Mr Deputy Speaker, to our exciting debate this afternoon. The hon. Member for Walthamstow (Stella Creasy) opened the debate by saying that we had an opportunity to take action on these issues. I completely agree, so I am sure she is absolutely delighted to see how much the Government have done to protect consumers and take action in these areas.

We have debated a number of issues, and I shall run through them in turn. First, on the issue of high-cost or payday lenders, hon. Members will know—certainly the hon. Lady knows this, as we have discussed it before—that the Government have taken robust action to curb the harm these lenders can cause. On 1 April, responsibility for regulating payday lenders, along with all other consumer credit firms, transferred from the Office of Fair Trading to the Financial Conduct Authority, as mentioned by a number of Members. The Government strongly welcome the FCA’s new, tough rules for regulating payday lending. The FCA requires robust affordability checks, limits the number of times that a payday loan can be rolled over to two, and places tough restrictions on lenders’ use of continuous payment authorities. As highlighted by a number of Members, the Government have also legislated to require the FCA to introduce a cap on the cost of payday loans to protect consumers from unfair costs. The FCA will consult on its proposals for the cap in the summer, and it will be in force no later than 2 January 2015.

In addition, the FCA will thoroughly assess every payday lender’s fitness to trade as part of the authorisation process. Given the risks to consumers, the FCA has said that those firms will be in the first phase of firms and will be required to be fully authorised from October this year. The Government believe that the tough and decisive action the FCA is taking, including the cap on the cost of payday loans, will ensure that consumers are far better protected than they have been.

The welcome news is that the measures are already making a difference, because a number of lenders have already withdrawn from the market, which is a bonus for the vulnerable consumer.

The hon. Gentleman is absolutely correct. We only have anecdotal evidence at the moment, but it is clear that a significant number of lenders have already withdrawn from the market because they know they will not be able to comply with the rules, which are extremely tough. As he said, that is absolutely as it should be. People who cannot comply with the rules are withdrawing, and consumers are being protected as a result.

Free debt advice is currently funded by a levy on lenders channelled via the Money Advice Service. As payday lenders are now regulated by the FCA, they too will contribute to the levy. The new clause tabled by the hon. Member for Walthamstow would duplicate the existing funding arrangements for debt advice. It is important that we put on the record the fact that payday lenders will be contributing to money advice services via the levy.

It is also important to note that the FCA is taking steps to ensure that vulnerable consumers are aware of the free debt advice available to them. It requires all high-cost, short-term lenders to signpost their customers to free debt advice at the point at which a loan is rolled over, and all payday lending adverts must include a risk warning and information about where to get free debt advice.

Will the Minister confirm that the amount raised by the levy will increase as the payday lenders are brought into it and that the amount paid will remain the same and will not simply be spread more thinly among the lenders?

To be totally honest, I do not know the answer to that question, but I will write to the hon. Lady to clarify that point.

Similarly, the levy will duplicate the Government’s existing support for credit unions. The Government are already investing £38 million to support the sustainable growth of credit unions to help them meet borrowers’ needs, as highlighted by the hon. Member for East Hampshire (Damian Hinds). Through that expansion, credit unions could save people on low incomes up to £1 billion in interest repayments, compared with going to a payday lender.

The Government therefore firmly believe that consumer choice and protection will be substantially strengthened by the new FCA regime and the ongoing Government support for credit unions. For the first time, payday lenders and other consumer credit firms will start paying their fair share towards funding free debt advice through the Money Advice Service, so the Government are already dealing with many of the issues that have been raised today.

Turning to debt management companies, the Government share the concerns about the potential for detriment to occur to consumers who take out debt management plans. There has been increasing media attention and people are becoming increasingly aware of the problems affecting some consumers. I also recognise the importance of protecting that particularly vulnerable group of consumers. The Government’s focus is on comprehensively reforming regulation in this sector. Responsibility for regulating debt management firms, as with all other consumer credit firms, has been transferred from the OFT to the FCA. As with customers of payday lenders, those participating in debt management plans will be far better protected under the new FCA regime.

The FCA has stated publicly that debt management firms must start putting consumers first and that it is unacceptable that people who are struggling to make ends meet are being talked into unsuitable plans. The Government have made sure that the FCA has robust powers to protect consumers who use debt management firms. The FCA is proactively monitoring the market and has a broad range of enforcement tools that it can use to punish breaches of the rules. There is no limit on the fines it can levy. Crucially, it can force firms to pay redress to consumers. The FCA will thoroughly assess every debt management firm’s fitness to trade as part of the authorisation process—the same process that applies to payday lenders.

Given the risk to consumers, the FCA has said that debt management firms will be in the first phase of credit firms that are required to be fully authorised. Its rules make it clear that the fees charged for debt management plans should not undermine the customer’s ability to make significant repayments to their lenders throughout the duration of the debt management plan. Concerns have been raised, including by the hon. Member for Walthamstow, about the huge proportion of somebody’s payment that, in some cases, goes to the debt management firm rather than the creditors. That is a matter of significant concern.

As a result, the FCA set out in its guidance that debt management firms should not allocate more than half the money received from customers in debt management plans to meeting the fees and charges from month 1 of the plan, and that once the initial fee for the arrangement of the plan has been paid, the proportion should reduce. Because the practice of front-loading fees can make debt problems worse before they get better, the FCA’s policy is designed to ensure that significant repayments must always go towards outstanding debts with creditors right from the very start of the debt management plan, so that progress is being made in paying off the debts. The FCA will be actively scrutinising the market, and it has flexible rule-making powers so that it can take action if it finds that consumers are suffering due to poor services or products. Like payday lenders, debt management firms are required to signpost customers towards free, independent debt advice. The FCA has put in place binding prudential rules for debt management firms that hold over £1 million of client money to help to protect customers if things go wrong. The Government believe that the new FCA regime will help to deliver a diverse and reputable debt management market that is able to meet a range of consumers’ needs when they are struggling with debts.

Although, as I have said, I am deeply concerned about some of the evidence we have seen of consumer detriment caused by some of the fee-charging providers of debt management plans, I do not think we should unduly restrict consumers’ choice of debt management plan providers and products. As several hon. Members have said, there are some excellent providers of free advice run by charities. I have some in my constituency, and I am sure that we find them across the whole country. Fee-charging debt management plan providers who are operating with consumers’ interests at heart and in full compliance with the regulations can help to provide a wider range of solutions and products for consumers. Some consumers may prefer to use fee-charging providers in dealing with their debts. Removing such providers from the market would reduce the options for and availability of debt management solutions for consumers who find themselves in financial difficulties, and that is not something the Government want to do.

The issue of credit brokers has been raised. Brokers who comply with the rules can play a role in a sustainable consumer credit market in helping consumers to access credit by connecting them with lenders. To be fair, brokers incur costs whether or not a consumer enters into a credit agreement with them. Prohibiting firms from charging fees could therefore push them towards a commission-driven business model, potentially creating conflicts of interest and leading to a less transparent fee structure that would be worse for consumers. The FCA rules require credit brokers to disclose their status and any fees that are payable before the consumer enters into the brokerage contract. The FCA has made it clear that disclosure must also cover the consumer’s right to a refund if no credit agreement is entered into within six months following an introduction. That relates to the case raised by the hon. Member for Makerfield (Yvonne Fovargue). The FCA has made a range of other conduct rules that apply to credit brokers. Brokers are required to comply with the high-level principle, which is general across the FCA credit services rules, of treating customers fairly. As I have said, it has a broad range of enforcement tools it can use, including fines and forcing firms to pay redress.

On new clause 11, let me be clear that the Government completely share Members’ concern about the risk of consumer detriment in the consumer credit market. There is clear evidence that there may be problems. The rules that were put in place by the FCA from 1 April this year were made with the stated aims of ensuring that firms lend only to borrowers who can afford it, and increasing borrowers’ awareness of the costs and risks of borrowing unaffordably and of ways to get help if they have financial difficulties.

Does the Minister think there is any merit in making people aware, potentially at school age, of exactly what they can afford and how they can manage their personal finances? People often get themselves into a mess before they approach some of these loan sharks and high-interest places. It might be good if we started this off at an earlier age.

The hon. Lady makes an extremely important point. There are some really good schemes in schools across the country, but provision can be a bit patchy. I have worked in schools in my constituency that are doing exactly that. Such matters can be extremely complex for people to understand, and learning about them as part of the school curriculum before they get into debt can be extremely helpful.

I reassure the Minister that, as of September, that will be in the national curriculum, so all is under control.

To complete the set, may I use this opportunity to mention the important work done by credit unions that operate junior savers clubs in schools in the constituencies of many hon. Members? It would be great to have them in many more schools in many more places, so that young people get into a savings habit before they reach the first point at which they might take on consumer credit.

Perhaps the hon. Gentleman would like to speak to the hon. Member for North Swindon (Justin Tomlinson) about that. He raises a very important point: the more we can help young people to understand some of these complex financial systems and how to manage money, hopefully, fewer people will end up in debt—particularly unaffordable debt—in the future.

Returning to the FCA rules on hire-purchase contracts for household goods and what has been called the “BrightHouse clause,” the FCA’s new rules will require firms to provide pre-contractual explanations and information in line with European requirements. I hope that answers the point made by a number of Members on both sides of the House. The information will include the cash price of the goods being financed and the total amount payable. The FCA rules will require that information to be provided to consumers before they sign up. I hope that will ensure greater transparency for customers.

The rules also mean that firms have to adhere to debt-collection rules—a point raised by the hon. Member for Makerfield—including treating customers who are in default or arrears with forbearance and due consideration. They also require firms to assess credit worthiness and affordability, including the potential to impact adversely on the consumer’s financial situation and their ability to make repayments as they fall due. There are, therefore, broad requirements on firms to try to tackle some of the hon. Lady’s concerns about consumer detriment.

When firms sell associated insurance products, they must do so in line with the FCA’s requirements for assessing a consumer’s eligibility to claim on a product and the high-level principle of treating customers fairly. Those are new requirements to ensure that we try to tackle consumer detriment. The Government believe that the tough and decisive action taken by the FCA will ensure that customers are better protected as a result.

Finally, we discussed the issue of logbook loans at some length in Committee and I completely understand the concern about the potential for consumer detriment as a result of these products. The Government believe that people should be free to borrow and have the tools to make an informed decision about which credit product is right for them, but consumers should be confident that they will be treated fairly and that the regulator will step in when things go wrong.

As the hon. Member for Walthamstow will be aware, logbook lenders now also fall under the responsibility of the FCA. As I have said with regard to other credit firms, I believe that consumers will be far better protected under the FCA regime than they have been in the past. The FCA has been very clear that logbook lenders are among the firms that it considers pose the greatest risk to consumers, and they will be in the first phase of firms that have to be fully authorised from October. Logbook loans are defined by the FCA as higher risk activities and, as such, lenders face closer supervision and higher regulatory costs.

Logbook loan providers are now also required to meet the standards the FCA expects of lenders in making thorough affordability checks and providing the adequate pre-contractual explanations to consumers. They are also subject to the high-level principle of treating customers fairly. Indeed, the FCA considers this area to be a particular concern. It has said that it is

“putting logbook lenders on notice”,

and that its new rules give it

“the power to tackle any firm found not putting customers’ interests first.”

It is therefore taking its new responsibilities very seriously.

In addition to the FCA’s robust action, Treasury Ministers have asked the Law Commission to look at how best to reform the Bills of Sale Act—as we know, the legislation underpinning logbook loans is old, lengthy and incredibly complex—and, as the hon. Member for Gainsborough (Sir Edward Leigh) highlighted, the Government believe that the Law Commission is best placed to undertake a thorough assessment of how we can bring the legislation up to date. It has responded favourably to the Treasury request, and it will confirm its upcoming work programme soon.

The hon. Member for Walthamstow raised concerns about people buying cars with outstanding loans against them and about the impact on customers. She said that a large proportion of second-hand cars are sold with pre-existing charges. The Bill, like the existing law, is clear that there is a legal obligation on the seller to notify the buyer of any outstanding charges. The Bill covers business-to-consumer sales, and sales between individual consumers have the same level of protection under the Sale of Goods Act 1979, which provides that the seller must have the right to sell the goods. That applies to all contracts for the sale of goods, so it covers private sales, in addition to purchases of goods from a shop or a business. Goods must be free from any undisclosed charge or encumbrance, which applies to hire-purchase terms for goods sold on, as well as to logbook loans. The private seller is in breach of contract if they do not have the right to sell, or if there are undisclosed charges on the goods, which means that the buyer can get their money back from the private seller.

The Government are concerned about the impact of unscrupulous traders in all these areas. That is why we have taken so much action and given such strong powers to the Financial Conduct Authority, and I do not believe that the Opposition’s new clauses are the right way forward. The Government’s approach is the right one for protecting consumers, particularly the most vulnerable, and I hope the hon. Member for Walthamstow will withdraw new clause 6.

We have had an interesting debate. I acknowledge that there is interest in this issue, as well as experience and expertise, on both sides of the House, which has been reflected in most of the speeches. I pay particular tribute to my hon. Friend the Member for Makerfield (Yvonne Fovargue) who, for all of us, is a touchstone on issues involving the consumer credit market.

I put on the record my support for the work of the hon. Member for East Hampshire (Damian Hinds) on the credit union movement. However, I must say that I brook no argument from him when Government Members have had three chances—not one, not two, but three chances, or an almost biblical opportunity—to deal with payday lending and the cost of credit, but voted against it.

In 140 characters, the hon. Member for St Albans (Mrs Main), like Shelley’s grandmother, shed much heat but not a lot of light on what Government Members will do about the issues that are to come. Our new clauses are about the new forms of legal loan sharking and the new nightmares experienced by many of our constituents. The hon. Lady is making a tapping noise. Is that her calculating the amount of money people have to pay out to the debt management and logbook loan companies?

The hon. Lady is doing herself a disservice. We are not point scoring. Many Government Members have concerns about debt. The tapping noise I was making refers to the fact that she seems unable to listen to comments from Government Members, and just tweets her own self-promotion endlessly.

The hon. Lady may be horrified about letting the public know what she and Government Members have been saying, but we are not. Government Members may be confident in their commitment to the idea that they are somehow tackling the cost of living, but when it comes to opportunities to make progress on such things as logbook loans or debt management fees, they have nothing to say and they should rightly be held to account not just in the House, but online. She would do well to reflect on such matters.

I want to move on to what hon. Members have mentioned in the debate, but may I tell my hon. Friend the Member for East Lothian (Fiona O’Donnell) that I consider us to be master and apprentice in our dress today? She pointed out that the Government seem to have a problem with the doors when it comes to voting the right way on consumer credit matters.

Let me pay tribute to the Minister and the members of the Sharkstoppers campaign. To hear a Minister in this Government talking about the action that they will take on payday lending is a tribute to the work of all those campaigners across the country. I want to give her the benefit of the doubt when she says that this Government want to make payday lenders pay their fair share. She was extremely honest about the fact that she has no idea how much money payday lenders will contribute to the cost of providing debt advice. We want to return to the issue in the Lords once we get that information, but we are happy to wait for the Minister to come back with the sums, to show that payday lenders are paying their fair share. We are pleased that the Financial Conduct Authority is looking at the outrageous practice of charging people in debt with debt management fees, and we will wait to see what the Government bring forward, and consider these issues again in the Lords in terms of whether fees should be abolished outright.

I say to the hon. Member for Gainsborough (Sir Edward Leigh) that there are many traditions worth defending: free speech, the last night of the proms, complaining about the weather—all great British traditions. However, being ripped off is not one of them, and it is time we called time on the rip-off that is a logbook loan and the way that bill of sale agreements are being used. Indeed, from what the Government say, they agree. Why leave our constituents lingering any longer under these outrageous and outmoded forms of contract? We want to push new clause 23 to a vote and say goodbye to bill of sale agreements and the exploitation of our constituents. We hear fine words from Government Members about how they want action on consumer credit, so let us see some action for a change—join us.

I beg to ask leave to withdraw new clause 6.

Clause, by leave, withdrawn.

New Clause 23

Consumer credit: bill of sale

‘(1) Where a person is a purchaser of goods subject to a bill of sale, made in connection with a regulated agreement under the Consumer Credit Act 1974, in good faith and without notice of the bill of sale, title to those goods shall pass to that person.

(2) A creditor is not entitled to enforce a bill of sale made in connection with a regulated agreement by recovering possession of the goods except through an order of the court.

(3) If goods are recovered by the creditor in contravention to subsection (2)—

(a) the bill of sale will be treated as invalidly made; and

(b) the debtor shall be released from any outstanding liability under the regulated agreement.

(4) If the creditor has disposed of goods taken in contravention of subsection (2) the debtor shall be compensated to the value of those goods.’.—(Stella Creasy.)

Brought up, and read the First time.

Question put, That the clause be read a Second time.

New Clause 8

Right to supply tickets to events of national significance

‘(1) The Secretary of State may by order made by statutory instrument designate an event to be of national significance.

(2) Where an event has been so designated under subsection (1) the Secretary of State may grant permission for the organising body to impose additional terms and conditions on the sale of tickets for the event, including—

(a) the power to specify persons to act as official traders authorised to sell tickets for the event;

(b) the power to withdraw tickets advertised by a person who is not authorised as an official trader; and

(c) the power to recall unsold tickets from official traders.

(3) Where an event has been so designated under subsection (1) it shall be an offence for any person other than an official trader to sell tickets for the event—

(a) in a public place or in the course of a business; and

(b) otherwise than in accordance with written authorisation from the organising body.

(4) For the purposes of this section—

“ticket” means anything which is or purports to be a ticket for the designated event;

“selling” includes a reference to—

(a) offering to sell a ticket;

(b) exposing a ticket for sale;

(c) advertising that a ticket is available for purchase; and

(d) giving, or offering to give, a ticket to a person who pays or agrees to pay for some other goods or services.

“organising body” means a person specified by the Secretary of State as responsible for organising of the event.

(5) A person shall (without prejudice to the generality of subsection (3)(a)) be treated as acting in the course of a business if he does anything as a result of which he makes a profit or aims to make a profit.

(6) A person does not commit an offence under subsection (3) by advertising that a ticket is available for purchase if—

(a) the sale of the ticket if purchased would be in the course of a business only by reason of subsection (5); and

(b) the person does not know, and could not reasonably be expected to discover, that subsection (5) would apply to the sale.

(7) A person does not commit an offence under subsection (3) (whether actual or inchoate) only by virtue of making facilities available in connection with electronic communication or the storage of electronic data.

(8) Where a person who provides services for electronic communication or for the storage of electronic data discovers that they are being used in connection with the commission of an offence under subsection (3), the defence in subsection (7) does not apply in respect of continued provision of the services after the shortest time reasonably required to withdraw them.

(9) A person guilty of an offence under subsection (3) shall be liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding level 5 on the standard scale.

(10) Section 32(2)(b) of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 (c. 60) (power to search premises) shall, in its application to the offence under subsection (3) above, permit the searching of a vehicle which a constable reasonably thinks was used in connection with the offence.

(11) Subsection (13) applies where a person in Scotland is arrested in connection with the commission of an offence under subsection (3).

(12) For the purposes of recovering evidence relating to the offence, a constable in Scotland may without warrant enter and search—

(a) premises in which the person was when arrested or immediately before he was arrested; and

(b) a vehicle which the constable reasonably believes is being used or was used in connection with the offence.

(13) Subsection (12) is without prejudice to any power of entry or search which is otherwise exercisable by a constable in Scotland.

(14) A statutory instrument containing an order under subsection (1) is not to be made unless a draft of the instrument has been laid before, and approved by a resolution of, each House of Parliament.’.—(Stella Creasy.)

Brought up, and read the First time.

With this it will be convenient to discuss the following:

New clause 12—Right to full refund: ticketed events

‘An event organiser must issue a full cash refund where their tickets are returned to them up to 24 hours before the start of the event.’.

New clause 13—Goods to be as described: meat products

‘(1) All products containing halal and kosher meat shall be labelled as such at the point of sale by retail and food outlets.

(2) A food outlet is anywhere where food is served to the public.’.

New clause 14—Communications services: change of service provider

‘(1) Section 3 of the Communications Act 2003 is amended as follows.

(2) At the end of subsection (2)(b) insert “with a switching process that is led by the receiving communications service provider”.’.

New clause 15—Right to corrective action

‘(1) This section applies if either—

(a) the responsible economic actor has identified that goods supplied present a health and safety risk to the consumer; or

(b) the appropriate authority has identified that goods supplied present a risk to the public safety; and

as a result, the product is subject to corrective action by either party (a “recall action”).

(2) The consumer has the right to expect that the responsible economic actor for any goods supplied subject to a recall action must take all reasonable steps to inform all persons affected, or likely to be affected by the safety risks from the goods, within the shortest period of time practicable.

(3) The consumer, if placed at risk by goods subject to a recall action, has the right to prompt and effective action by the economic actor of that product to ensure that—

(a) the defect posing a safety risk to any persons affected or likely to be affected is eliminated;

(b) the actions required to achieve (a) do not cause significant inconvenience to the consumer; and

(c) all costs associated with the recall action are borne by the responsible economic actor.

(4) The Secretary of State will periodically gather and make publicly available information relating to safety incidents caused by recalled goods, and estimates of how many such goods still remain unaccounted for.

(5) The effectiveness of recall actions, and the procedures in place to achieve successful recalls, will be the subject of periodic review by the Secretary of State, with reference to public information on recalls in subsection (4) and any other relevant data.

(6) The Secretary of State may create or designate a body to act as a consumer product safety and recall authority.

(7) The Secretary of State may by regulations provide for the authority to—

(a) act to protect the public from identifiable and unreasonable risks of injury, death or household risk from consumer products;

(b) review products, test products, or receive or commission reports from other competent persons;

(c) direct corrective action to be taken by relevant economic actors, regulators or authorities;

(d) ensure and direct forms of consumer registration, from purchase of products, with databases which will be conducive to optimal fulfilment of (a) and (c) above;

(e) require notification by economic actors, including manufacturers, brand suppliers or traders, of significant evidence of concern in respect of the consumer safety of relevant products; and

(f) provide for accessible, intelligible information and advice to be available to consumers and relevant economic actors in respect of product safety, corrective actions and other guidances relevant to the authority’s work.

(8) For the purposes of subsections (4), (5), (6) and (7), the Secretary of State must consult with—

(a) market regulators;

(b) relevant authorities; and

(c) any other bodies he thinks appropriate.

(9) For the purposes of this section “economic actor” means—

(a) a “trader” as defined in section 2(2); or

(b) a manufacturer of “goods” as defined in section 2(8).’.

This new clause would enable new provision to be made regarding recall actions where a level of consumer safety risk has been identified. It would allow the Secretary of State to review and add to arrangements for corrective action for the protection of consumer safety.

New clause 16—Secondary ticketing platforms: product and seller information

‘(1) The Secretary of State shall issue guidance to all traders who operate as secondary ticketing platforms on the application of the Consumer Contracts (Information, Cancellation and Additional Charges) Regulations 2013.

(2) Guidance issued under section (1) shall include how secondary ticketing platforms must inform consumers of—

(a) the chosen identity of the seller;

(b) the country of residence of the seller;

(c) information provided by previous buyers on the reliability of the seller and the tickets he has sold;

(d) information on any complaints made against the seller for failing to supply tickets;

(e) information on any complaints made against the seller for supplying fraudulent or invalidated tickets; and

(f) information on all other accounts currently or previously held with the secondary ticketing platform linked to the seller by virtue of personal, financial and contact information provided by them.

(3) Guidance issued under section (1) shall set out how information required under Part 2 of the Consumer Contracts (Information, Cancellation and Additional Charges) Regulations 2013 shall be—

(a) accurate; and

(b) prominently displayed before a buyer is able to purchase.

(4) Guidance issued under section (1) shall set out how secondary ticketing platforms must disclose clearly if the seller of the ticket is—

(a) the secondary ticketing platform themselves;

(b) individuals employed by the secondary ticketing platform;

(c) other companies linked to employees, directors or shareholders of the secondary ticketing platform;

(d) the event organiser or an agent acting on their behalf; or

(e) any other party connected to the event organiser of the event.

(5) Guidance issued under section (1) shall set out the status of tickets as unique goods with distinct characteristics which would affect—

(a) the enjoyment of the good by the consumer;

(b) the use of the good by the consumer; or

(c) the inherent value of the good in questions.

(6) Where a ticket is sold through a secondary ticketing platform, guidance issued under section (1) shall set out how the Consumer Contracts (Information, Cancellation and Additional Charges) Regulations 2013 apply to tickets as unique goods, including—

(a) how sellers must provide all relevant information about the ticket including but not limited to the face value of the ticket and a designated seat or ticket number;

(b) how secondary ticketing platforms will publish all the information about a ticket provided by the seller in a prominent and clear way; and

(c) what sanctions will apply for failing to provide this information under the regulations.’.

New clause 17—Secondary ticketing platforms: fraudulent tickets

‘(1) Where a secondary ticketing platform becomes aware that sellers using their service have acquired tickets through illegal methods, or are selling fraudulent tickets, they have a duty to report this to the relevant law enforcement agency immediately.

(2) A secondary ticketing platform must meet any lawful requests for information on sellers made by law enforcement agencies or courts.

(3) Where a law enforcement agency has notified a secondary ticketing platform that a ticket advertised through their service is, or is suspected to be, fraudulent, the secondary ticketing platform must remove that ticket and suspend the seller’s activities immediately.’.

New clause 18—Secondary ticketing platforms: seller profiles

‘(1) Secondary ticketing platforms must provide a profile of information on sellers using their service.

(2) Profile information provided under subsection (1) must include, but is not limited to—

(a) the name of the seller;

(b) the country of residence of the seller;

(c) if the seller is a company or business, its registered number, if any;

(d) if the seller is a company or business, its registered office or address for service;

(e) a list of all current and past inventory sold or offered for sale by the seller;

(f) information on all other accounts currently or previously held with the secondary ticketing platform linked to the seller by virtue of personal, financial and contact information provided by him;

(g) information provided by previous buyers of the reliability of the seller and the tickets he has sold;

(h) information on any complaints made against the seller for failing to supply tickets, and the resolution of those complaints;

(i) the VAT registration number of the seller, if applicable; and

(j) information on any complaints made against the seller for supplying fraudulent or invalidated tickets, and the resolution of those complaints.

(3) Information provided under subsection (1) must be—

(a) accurate; and

(b) prominently displayed before a buyer is able to complete their purchase.

(4) Secondary ticketing platforms must disclose clearly and prominently where the seller of the ticket is—

(a) the secondary ticketing platform themselves;

(b) individuals employed by the secondary ticketing platform;

(c) other companies linked to employees, directors or shareholders of the secondary ticketing platform;

(d) the event organiser or an agent acting on their behalf; or

(e) any other party connected to the organisation of the event.

(5) Where a seller offers for sale more than 20 tickets to the same event, the secondary ticketing platform must take reasonable steps to verify the validity of the tickets.’.

New clause 19—Secondary ticketing platforms: ticket information

‘(1) Where a ticket is sold through a secondary ticketing platform—

(a) the seller must provide all relevant information about the ticket; and

(b) the secondary ticketing platform must publish all the information about a ticket provided by the seller in a prominent and clear way.

(2) Information to be requested by the secondary ticketing platform and provided by the seller for the purposes of subsection (1) should include, but is not limited to—

(a) the face value of the ticket;

(b) any age or other restrictions on the user of the ticket; and

(c) the designated block, row, seat or ticket number, where applicable.

(3) Where tickets are being resold in contravention of the terms and conditions agreed to by the original purchaser, this must be stated prominently by the secondary ticketing platform at every stage of the purchasing process.

(4) Information provided by virtue of this section must be—

(a) accurate; and

(b) prominently displayed before a buyer is able to complete their purchase.’.

New clause 20—Secondary ticketing platforms: compensation

‘(1) Secondary ticketing platforms must reimburse reasonable costs to a buyer where a ticket sold through their service is fraudulent or invalidated.

(2) For the purposes of subsection (1), reasonable costs must include, but are not limited to—

(a) the price paid for the ticket by the buyer, inclusive of all service and delivery charges;

(b) all travel expenses incurred by the buyer in travelling from their place of residence to the location of the event for which they had purchased the ticket; and

(c) any accommodation expenses incurred by the buyer for the sole purpose of attending the event for which they had purchased the ticket.

(3) For the purposes of subsection (1), reasonable costs should be defined as a total amount not exceeding twice the total purchase price of the ticket or tickets in question, including all additional fees and taxes paid.

(4) Claims made by a buyer against a secondary ticketing platform under this section must be proven by receipts or other documentary proof.

(5) The secondary ticketing platform must settle any claims under this section within 40 working days, other than where a suspected fraud or abuse related to the transaction in question is the subject of an ongoing investigation by the relevant statutory authority.

(6) Secondary ticketing platforms are permitted to take all necessary action to recover any monies paid out to consumers under this section from the seller of the ticket.’.

New clause 21—Secondary ticketing platforms: definitions

‘(1) A “secondary ticketing platform” means a person or company operating an internet-based facility for the resale of tickets to events including in the United Kingdom, regardless of the country in which the owner of the service is registered.

(2) A “ticket” means anything which purports to be a ticket, including any item, tangible or intangible, which grants the holder entry to an event.

(3) An “event” means any sporting, music or cultural activity taking place at a specified time and place for which tickets are issued and required for entry or attendance.

(4) An “event organiser” means the person or persons responsible for organising and holding an event and receiving the revenue from the event.

(5) A “fraudulent ticket” means a forged or duplicated ticket.

(6) An “invalidated ticket” means a ticket which has been cancelled by the event organiser, or an agent acting on their behalf, after being issued.’.

New clause 22—Prohibition of fees in contracts for services: letting of residential accommodation

‘(1) The provisions in this section apply to a contract for a trader to supply a service in connection with the letting of a residential premises.

(2) Subject to the provisions of this section, any person who demands or accepts payment of any sum of money from a person (“P”) for services in connection with a contract for the letting of residential premises shall be guilty of an offence.

(3) For the purposes of subsection (2), P is any person—

(a) who seeks to enter a contract to let residential accommodation, or

(b) who has a tenancy of, or other right or permission to occupy, residential premises.

(4) For the purposes of subsection (2)—

“letting” shall include any service provided in connection with the advertisement or marketing of residential accommodation or with the grant or renewal of a tenancy;

“services shall —

(a) include, and are not limited to—

(i) the registration of persons seeking accommodation,

(ii) the selection of prospective occupiers, and

(iii) any work associated with the production or completion of written agreements or other relevant documents.

(b) not include credit checks of person seeking accommodation.

(5) Where a person unlawfully demands or accepts payment under this section in the course of his employment, the employer or principal of that person shall also be guilty of an offence.

(6) A person shall not be guilty of an offence under this section by reason of his demanding or accepting payment of rent or a tenancy deposit within the meaning of section 212(8) of the Housing Act 2004.

(7) A person shall not be guilty of an offence under this section by reason of his demanding or accepting a holding deposit.

(8) A “holding deposit” for the purposes of subsection (7) is—

(a) a sum of money demanded of or accepted from a person, in good faith for the purpose of giving priority to that person in relation to the letting of a specific property, which is to be credited towards the tenancy deposit or rent upon the grant of the tenancy of that property, and

(b) not greater than two weeks rent for the accommodation in question.

(9) Costs incurred by persons seeking accommodation for the undertaking of credit checks shall be reimbursed upon the signing of a tenancy agreement.

(10) In this section, any reference to the grant or renewal of a tenancy shall include the grant or renewal or continuance of a lease or licence of, or other right or permission to occupy, residential premises.

(11) In this section “rent” shall include any occupation charge under a licence.’.

Amendment 6, in clause 2, page 2, line 15, at end insert—

‘(3A) The Secretary of State may by order made by statutory instrument provide that those who represent businesses with fewer than 10 employees and are purchasing goods or services for use within their commercial activities will be considered consumers.’.

Government amendments 9 to 14.

Amendment 5, in clause 48, page 30, line 3, leave out from ‘(5)’ to ‘resolution’ and insert ‘may not be made unless a draft has been laid before and approved by’.

Government amendment 15.

Amendment 20, in clause 84,  page 43, line 14, at end insert—

‘(2A) Section [Prohibition of fees in contracts for services: letting of residential accommodation] extends only to England.’.

Like a pub quiz, we now come to the lucky dip round of the Bill, with a number of different issues being taken together. I am conscious that many Members wish to speak, so I will keep my remarks brief. [Hon. Members: “Hear, hear.”] I am always eager to please.

Let me start with new clause 8. A number of provisions have been proposed to deal with ticket touting—a subject about which I know many Members feel strongly. I shall also deal with new clause 22, which deals with fees. We have already tried today to abolish fees for debt management, and we would now like to abolish fees for tenants, which is what consumers need. I shall also talk about businesses and consumers, new clauses 13 to 15 and the Government amendments.

Ticket touting is an issue about which many of us are concerned. We see the damage it is doing to a range of industries by distorting prices and access to entertainment activities. Ticket bot machines—I am not sure whether all Members are aware of them—are pieces of software that impersonate individual visitors to ticket vendor websites and automatically make multiple ticket purchases. What does that mean in practice? It means that many of us as fans of music, sport or light entertainment do not get a look in. It means that millions of fans have never been able to get a ticket for a range of different events because all the tickets are sold out within minutes: they are sold to a machine, not to fellow fans. Those tickets are then resold at an exorbitant price.

According to Ticketmaster USA, one group of scalpers were requesting 200,000 tickets a day in this way. We certainly know that the secondary ticket market for the resale of tickets is worth up to £1 billion a year. Those MPs who are members of the Monty Python fan club—I see it in many of their speeches as they are certainly “the knights who say ‘Ni!’”—will be aware of the outcry after all the tickets for the Monty Python show disappeared in that way. Perhaps the Monty Python foot will fall on me for making that joke—the hon. Member for East Hampshire (Damian Hinds) seems to be making a face to suggest that it should. Those of us who are fans of the Stone Roses were horrified to see the band’s gigs automatically sell out in that way. Tickets for a Kate Bush gig were also taken out. They were originally sold for £49 but within minutes were on a resale site for £490. For the Stone Roses, tickets that should have been a mere £55 were being sold for £1,000 a time—well beyond the means of the average fan of such phenomenal music.

The Secretary of State has claimed that ticket resellers are classic entrepreneurs because they fill a gap that they have identified in the market. With the greatest respect, I fear that the new Secretary of State has misunderstood the market in ticket sales and quite what these businesses are doing by distorting people’s access. He presumes that consumers are able to compete fairly against these automatic machines, but that is simply not the case.

Let me be clear that our amendments are not designed to stop the resale of tickets. I told the Committee and I will tell the House that I was deeply disappointed to have to sit here late one evening and give up my tickets to see the great band, the Wonder Stuff. My hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton North East (Emma Reynolds) will know of the band’s work. I was looking to resell my ticket and, as a genuine fan, I wanted it to go to another fan so that they could hear the beauty and the wonder that is “Dizzy”.

What we are talking about is finding a way to make this work for the fans and the consumers, rather than the botnets. Our new clauses deal with the three clear issues. First, we want to apply to the secondary market the guidance about what information should be provided to a consumer when buying a product. There is clearly a gap in which these companies are profiting. There is confusion and a lack of information about what people are being sold. Some of us have had constituents tell us that they have been sold a ticket through a secondary reseller market only to find that it is a fake.

Secondly, we want to give greater protection for events of national significance. We know that there is widespread concern across the sporting industry about the real fans being locked out of games by these kinds of practices. I want to pay tribute to the work of my hon. Friend the Member for Eltham (Clive Efford) and the tireless campaigning he has done on the forthcoming rugby world cup. Millions of fans will not be able to attend events because of the actions of these companies and the touts.

Thirdly, we want to strengthen co-operation between the enforcement agencies and the secondary sites so that there is more protection for consumers and we can all be confident that when we buy a ticket for something, it is what we think it is and we can get a ticket in the first place.

Would my hon. Friend’s suggested reforms be able to deal with the appalling situation highlighted by my hon. Friend the Member for Blaenau Gwent (Nick Smith) whereby tickets for next year’s rugby world cup in the Cardiff Millennium centre—good stadium that it is—are now on sale for £1,560 for a £250 ticket? I would have thought that £250 is enough for the average rugby follower, but £1,560 is an absolute disgrace.

The new clauses and amendments would deal with that. I understand that the tickets for the rugby world cup are not yet formally on sale. The fact that they are already being marketed on secondary sites at such prices demonstrates the scale of the problem that we need to tackle.

I pay tribute to the tremendous and tireless work that has been done by my hon. Friend the Member for Washington and Sunderland West (Mrs Hodgson), who will speak about her new clauses later. I also pay tribute to what has been done by the hon. Member for Hove (Mike Weatherley). I know that the hon. Member for Shipley (Philip Davies), who has also tabled a new clause on this subject, shares the widespread concern that is felt.

I will, but only briefly, because I am conscious of the time, and I know that the hon. Gentleman wants to talk about a number of new clauses and amendments himself.

Given what the hon. Lady said about not wanting to encourage the secondary ticket market, may I take it as read that she will support my new clause 12, which would guarantee people a refund from the organiser if they are not able to go to the event? If they cannot go and they cannot get a refund, they will not have much choice other than to sell the ticket on.

I think that the hon. Gentleman’s new clause responds to a slightly different challenge, and presents a practical challenge in relation to how it could be applied, but let me make one thing very clear, in case he did not hear me say it the first time. We are not suggesting that there should not be a market for the selling on of tickets; we are saying that what the ticket touts are doing is distorting the market for consumers. That is separate from the issue of whether people can obtain a refund within 24 hours. Let me caution the hon. Gentleman that some aspects of his proposal may not work in a practical sense, whereas we are presenting practical proposals.

New clause 8, in particular, has learnt the lessons of the Olympic and paralympic games. Tickets for those games were given particular protection to enable people to be confident that they could obtain them. The London Olympic Games and Paralympic Games Act 2006 levied fines of up to £5,000 for the reselling of tickets at a profit. The Home Secretary increased that to £20,000, citing the threat from serious and organised criminal groups. We know that ticket touting is being used to support a range of criminal activities. New clause 8 relates to events of national significance. Let us make sure that rugby fans can go to the world cup: it surely cannot be all that difficult to legislate for that.

New clause 16 seeks to get to the root of the problem, which is that people do not necessarily know what they are being sold. A unique identifier is a simple way in which to ensure that when someone buys a ticket, it is a ticket for a particular gig, show or match. The venues themselves will have already given out identifying information, whether it is a seat number or a stall number. We are suggesting that they should be required to provide that information at the point of sale, so that people can be confident about what they are buying. That will enable the event organisers to identify those in, for instance, rugby clubs who are already selling on tickets that they have been given and are misusing their relationship to give out the information.

We think that that accords very well with what the Minister said in Committee about the Consumer Contracts (Information, Cancellation and Additional Charges) Regulations 2013, which she believed would address the issues related to selling. She said that they

“set out…the information that a trader should provide to a consumer for all distance sales—which would include tickets”.

In particular, she said that they gave details of

“the main characteristics of the goods”.––[Official Report, Consumer Rights Public Bill Committee, 25 February 2014; c. 183.]

We believe that new clause 16 would simply put that into practice in the context of the secondary ticketing market, providing clarity for all who are concerned about what they are buying. It accords with consumer regulation, and we hope that the Government will support it, even if they fear that some of the other new clauses relating to ticket touting would be difficult to implement. We certainly hope that they will listen to the clarion call from new clause 8. Surely everyone, in the House and outside, agrees that it cannot be right for us not to be confident that it is the fans who are able to obtain tickets to attend events of sporting significance, whether they obtain them online or offline.

I know that other Members want to talk about ticket touting, and I shall therefore move on to the subject of letting agents’ fees.

The city of Glasgow is about to host the Commonwealth games, and a great deal of effort has been put into safeguarding tickets. Some of us have been shouting for a long time “Make ticket touting illegal!” Once it is illegal, we can take care of the other little bits and pieces, but should we not make it illegal right now so that we can know exactly where we are?

The new clauses and amendments are designed to make progress on issues of precisely that kind. One of the problems of ticket touting is trying to identify who is responsible for the crime that is taking place. Making the seller of the ticket give the details of that ticket will enable us to identify its provenance and who is selling it. We shall then be able to crack down on the people involved, whether it involves the rugby world cup or another event, so that organisations will not have their tickets sold on when they do not wish that to happen. It will give that kind of flexibility, and it reflects the all-party group work done on some of these issues. I hope there will be support from across the House.

If the hon. Lady wants to suggest some tweets, I will happily take them, but I am sure everyone will appreciate it if we can move on to the question of letting fees.

I am sorry that the hon. Lady is being so waspish; I am just seeking a bit of clarification. She mentioned the crime of ticket touting. Is she proposing to make it a crime, or does she believe it is a crime?

There are already criminal elements to what we are talking about. What we are talking about in this legislation is the information provided to a consumer—this is, after all, a consumer rights Bill—that could help address the problems caused by ticket touting, and it reflects the work being done by the all-party group. [Interruption.] Well, this is a separate issue about what we can do for consumers, and with that in mind I want to move on to new clause 22 because, as I have said, there is a lucky dip element to the amendments before us and it is about letting fees.

I pay tribute to the work done in this area by my colleague my hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton North East. I see first hand in my constituency the problems caused by increasingly difficult access to housing and affordable housing, particularly within the private rented sector. We know that 9 million people in England are living in rented homes and they are paying on average over £1,000 more a year in rent than they did in 2010. That is why we have to reform the private rented sector. The costs that people are facing are unsustainable. I have families in my constituency spending between 60% and 70% of their monthly income on rent alone. They cannot make ends meet.

There is a wider debate to be had about the length of tenancies and the levels of rent, but this amendment, like the previous amendments I was speaking to, relates to consumer legislation, and in particular the specific issue of fees and whether they should be charged.

The issue my hon. Friend is outlining, and that our colleague my hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton North East (Emma Reynolds), the current shadow Housing Minister, has raised, is very important. It is particularly an issue for us in Blackpool and many other seaside towns, where, because of degrees of internal transience, some families have to move two or three times a year. That exacerbates the whole issue of letting fees.

I entirely agree. We see it in London as well, where people are having to move: every single time they move a fee is applied, and those fees are extortionate and are anti-consumer, as I shall explain.

The average such fee is about £355, but there are great variations. In my constituency of Walthamstow, in the work we have done on the “home sweet home” campaign, we found some fees as high as £827. We found renters being asked to pay fees for having pets, for having their houses cleaned and for a whole range of other practices, and we can see the consequences. We also know that 94% of letting agencies impose a fee on top of rent in advance and a deposit. There is therefore a huge sum of money for people to find. One constituent had to find £4,000 before he and his family could move into a property.

One in seven of those who use an agency are charged over £500 in agency fees before finding the deposit or rent in advance. Mystery shopping by Shelter found that some renters are routinely being charged £700. Over the past three years, one in four people who have dealt with a letting agency have said they have had to borrow money to pay that fee, which is of relevance to our previous debate. One in six is cutting down on food or heating to meet the cost of that fee, and four in 10 experience money worries as a direct result of that fee. If that fee is being applied every single year because people are moving again and again, we can see how quickly these sums can cause huge problems for consumers.

Some, perhaps those on one side of the coalition, will say what we need to do is make sure there is transparency. Certainly we explored whether people knowing the kind of fees they were facing—if everyone was upfront about the amount of money they were going to charge as a fee for introducing clients to a landlord, for example—could be one way of addressing this. That is a bit like somebody being tied to the train tracks and being told the train timetable, however, because in the current market many tenants have little option but to try to borrow to find that fee and then deal with the financial consequences. While I appreciate that one half of the coalition has now understood that fees are a challenge, the argument that simply knowing how much those fees are is enough in itself to deal with these problems simply does not wash. And nor does capping fees, because it is anti-consumer to have two different organisations paying for the same service. That is what we are talking about here: a form of double-charging. How can both the landlord and the tenant pay for the same service at the same time and the agent act in the interests of both? How can a landlord be confident that they are getting the best tenants if the agent also has the tenant’s interests at heart? How can a tenant be confident that they are getting a decent landlord if the landlord is also being acted for by the agent? This is fundamentally an anti-competitive practice and we think it is therefore time to act. Our new clause would do something very simple: it would clarify that renters could not be charged a fee.

The hon. Lady rightly talks about the difficulties that many people face in trying to find the money to pay these fees, but is it her assumption, and that of the Opposition, that were letting fees to be banned, that source of revenue would disappear for the agents but they would not seek to reclaim it elsewhere?

It is not simply an assumption; it is based on the evidence we have seen from Scotland, which is that this money would be incorporated in the centre of the tenancy and so that the landlord would pay the fee. We would expect the tenant to pay one fee—the credit referencing fee—but once the tenancy was secure and the landlord could therefore be confident that the person was back in the place, we would expect it to be refunded. We are very clear that the practice of charging fees to both parties at the same time is a conflict of interest and therefore needs to be addressed, which is what our proposal would do. It would spread the fee over the course of the tenancy.

Just to complete the point, is it also the hon. Lady’s assumption, and that of the Opposition, that were landlords to face greater fees, they would not seek to recoup that extra cost in some other way?

One issue is what landlords are charging for. I see landlords who are charging twice for credit referencing, because they are charging the landlord and the tenant that fee. [Interruption.] The presumption the hon. Gentleman makes is that all the fees are for different activities—

Our presumption is that the fees would then be taken on by the landlord and taken as part of the tenancy agreement. Our approach would resolve the problems we are seeing for tenants and the conflict of interest over whom the agent would act for. Our proposal is about making sure we deal with that conflict, particularly how for landlords and for tenants it creates a series of perverse incentives whereby both can be charged for the same service.

The problem is that if the letting agency loses an income it will seek to get it from elsewhere, so it is likely to increase its charges to the landlord. The landlord will then seek to recover that money, and from whom will the landlord seek to recover it? From the tenant.

I simply do not accept the picture the hon. Gentleman is painting. Scotland has banned fees on tenants, and the experience there has been an increase in the number of letting agents and no effect on the rents people are paying. The evidence shows that, as with the payday lenders, when we give tenants the muscle to remove this fee, the market shapes up. We have not seen an increase in the fees that tenants are facing; nor have we seen an exit from the market. Some of the fears the hon. Gentleman might have, which I understand, are not well founded, because a lot of the fees tenants are being asked to pay are not indicative of a service being provided; they are indicative of a profit-making machine. We are trying to deal with the detriment caused by the ability of agents to charge fees to two parties at the same time. By making this a fee for the landlord, it is clear whose interest the agent is acting in.

As I say, we have dealt with the particular issue here, because we have listened to the landlords and letting agents who have expressed concerns about tenants who may not be what they seem. In that instance, there would be a case for being able to charge a fee to the tenant which would be refunded, but the alternative of letting this practice continue and seeing the kind of fees that we are seeing, and therefore the problems that are being caused, is also unsustainable. I hope that Government Members, particularly those who have now recognised there is a problem with the fees in themselves, will go that stage further and recognise that there is a problem with this form of double-charging, support our proposals and learn from the experience in Scotland on this issue.

As I am conscious of the time, I shall move on; I appreciate that there are a number of Members who wish to speak in this debate. I am sure that the hon. Member for East Hampshire, who has made many useful contributions this afternoon, will get to speak in the following debate.

I briefly want to speak to amendment 6. It may come as a surprise to some to see the Government resisting the work of the Federation of Small Businesses, which is trying to help small businesses that are struggling with their consumer contracts. Members in this House may have first-hand experience of that, as we are, after all, small businesses and will have dealt with business-to-business contracts, and many may not realise that they have different levels of consumer protection as a result.

The FSB has recently published a report on small businesses which points out that it makes much more sense to give micro-businesses the same consumer protection as private individuals. After all, it is unreasonable to expect a micro-business to have the same level of legal qualification and expertise to deal with a contract as that of a larger body, and that is what amendment 6 addresses. I note that the FSB has given its support to this amendment. I was surprised when the Minister said earlier that the FSB did not support giving consumer rights to businesses. That has not been the briefing that we have had from it; indeed, it supports this amendment. Will the Minister set out when she expects to give small businesses the kind of consumer protection they need, because it will be one fewer worry for them?

I wish now to touch on some of the other new clauses. New clause 14 deals with Ofcom and switching. We certainly think this is a good idea, and we wish to see the Government following it through. I am sorry that the hon. Member for Shipley (Philip Davies) was not here earlier when we were debating new clause 3 and new schedule 1 and making it easier for consumers to be able to switch. We recognise that there are problems. It is unusual for the UK, by comparison with other nations, to have this issue, and it will be interesting to know whether the Minister is considering it.

I look forward to the hon. Member for Shipley making his case for new clause 13. I certainly agree that transparency is important. The laws governing animal welfare at slaughter, at both EU and UK level, require animals to be stunned before slaughter, but they make an exemption to that requirement for religious slaughter, which is carried out by members of the Jewish and Muslim communities.

We are concerned about whether this amendment has a significant effect on animal welfare and implications beyond that. In particular, we must ensure that our laws strike the right balance between concern for animal welfare, which many of us have, transparency for consumers and respect for the traditions of different businesses and different communities. We also recognise that a lot of work has already been done on this matter in the European Union, and it would be sensible to learn some of the lessons on the wider issues such as how goods and foods are labelled. It will be interesting to hear the hon. Gentleman’s views on that—perhaps not on Europe but on the research that is being done.

I am sure that the hon. Gentleman would not want to make a law that caused confusion in this area rather than clarity. He focuses on halal and kosher food, but the Opposition believe that respect implies an active attitude towards others rather than a passive attitude, and certainly our position is to seek proper engagement with all faith groups before we move forward on such a measure.

Let me turn now to new clause 15, which has been tabled by the hon. Member for Foyle (Mark Durkan). We supported it in Committee and would support it again. It is an incredibly important amendment and I urge Members to listen to what the hon. Gentleman has to say. We do not believe it is acceptable to leave it to consumers to know whether they have a death trap in their house.

Finally, I want to say a bit about Government amendments 14 to 20 and the very welcome U-turn that seems to have been made. In Committee, we were concerned that consumers could be left waiting many months for a refund, but the Minister suggested that the Government believed there were potential disadvantages of introducing a time limit that outweighed the benefits that such a change could bring. We suggested 30 days in which to get a refund, so I am absolutely delighted that the Government have gone one stage further and said that people should get their money back in 14 days. That gives me great hope that while the Minister may be saying “computer says no” at the moment to some of the things that we have been talking about today and in Committee, we will see further concessions in due course. We shall welcome them accordingly.

It is a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Walthamstow (Stella Creasy). I was, surprisingly, rather encouraged by her response to my amendments. It could be a red-letter day for me, getting support across the House for some of my amendments.

I want to focus mainly on new clause 13, which is about the labelling of halal and kosher meat at the point of sale. With your permission, Mr Deputy Speaker, I will seek to press it to a vote, should the opportunity arise. It is an issue of great importance to the public, and we have heard an awful lot of commentary on it in the media and among many of our constituents in recent weeks. They would appreciate seeing where their Member of Parliament stands on the issue.

When the hon. Gentleman says that the issue is of great importance to the country, he means the Daily Mail and The Sun.

The hon. Lady needs to get out more, to be perfectly honest. She would find that there is widespread concern about the issue. She can vote accordingly and should not have anything to fear from a debate or a vote. I do not see why she should seek to object to either thing—that is what we are supposed to be here in Parliament to do, after all.

As you know better than anyone, Mr Deputy Speaker, I enjoy the cut and thrust of debate in the Chamber, but I am well aware of the time limitations and that other Members want to speak. I have given way once, but I will try to resist the temptation to give way many times because I want to hear what others have to say, too, and there is a lot to get through.

I am sorry to test my hon. Friend’s resolve so early in his speech, but this is an important point. On reflection, does he not agree that his new clause on halal meat—[Interruption]—and kosher could have been better drafted? If we are to have labelling, is it not important that the labelling specifies whether the meat was pre-stunned halal or non-pre-stunned?

I have resolve, but I can seldom resist giving way to my right hon. Friend. Animal welfare is a big issue for lots of people, but it is not the only one. Many other faith groups are concerned about the blessing given to the meat before sale, and his proposal would not address their particular concerns. My new clause has been drafted with all such people in mind, because the issue is bigger than one only of animal welfare. Animal welfare is an important element, but not the only element. I will come on to that later.

I want to start, however, with new clause 12, which relates to ticketing. The hon. Member for Walthamstow said that my new clause had nothing to do with her new clauses, but nothing could be further from the truth—it very much has. We know what her long-term agenda is, because she let it slip in an intervention: ultimately, she wants to see the end of ticket touting and the secondary sale of tickets. I think that that would be a massive retrograde step. The Select Committee on Culture, Media and Sport, on which I serve, looked into the matter in the previous Parliament and found that such activities were a legitimate area of business. The Office of Fair Trading, as well as the Committee, found that it works in the consumer’s best interest.

I will stick to my resolve. The hon. Lady and I have locked horns on the issue over years. If anyone wants to look at our previous debates, they can go back to Hansard and see them all rehearsed there. I am sure that she will get the opportunity to have her say in a bit.

Fifty per cent. of tickets on viagogo are sold at a loss, so the idea that all people touting tickets are selling them at huge profits is simply not true; most are sold at a loss. The principle is this: if I buy a ticket, as far as I am concerned it belongs to me. I should be able to do with that ticket what I choose to do, including selling it on to someone else, as I can with any other commodity. Other products have limited editions, which are popular, such as designer handbags or Buzz Lightyear toys from years back, and people go in, buy the lot for a small amount and sell them on at an inflated price on eBay a few hours later. If the Labour party wants to ban that happening with tickets, presumably it will say that that kind of behaviour should be banned as well. That is complete nonsense.

Event organisers do not lose out at all, because all the tickets are sold at the price that they wanted to get for them—all the income that they wanted is delivered. The idea that real fans will be deprived of going to an event is complete nonsense. If someone is prepared to pay £1,500 for a ticket, you can bet your bottom dollar that they are a real fan. Not many people are prepared to pay £1,500 for a ticket for something that they do not really care about going to. It actually guarantees that real fans go.

I am not going to give way for the reasons I mentioned earlier.

If I have a ticket to the Lords test match, for example, or to the rugby world cup final, and I go into my local pub and someone says to me, “It is my lifetime ambition to go there, I would give £4,000 for a ticket,” what is wrong with my saying that I will give up my ticket and they can go instead? Everybody is happy, nobody has lost out, but Labour want to interfere with people’s aspirations. Why should that be banned? If someone does not want to pay the higher price, they should not pay it. Nobody is forced to pay the inflated prices if they do not want to.

If the secondary sale of tickets bothers event promoters so much, why do they not do something practical to stop it? Why sell all the tickets in one go, for example? Why not hold them back? Why put them all on sale so that they are sold within 43 seconds, meaning that they can be resold at inflated prices? If promoters are so bothered, why not sell tickets bit by bit, week by week, month by month so that there are still tickets available the week before the event? That would remove the secondary ticketing market, but they choose not to do it. That can only lead me to presume that the event organisers are shedding crocodile tears, as they are happy to get all the money from the tickets being snapped up.

An ICM poll showed that 83% agreed with the premise:

“Once I’ve bought a ticket it is my property and I should be able to sell it to just as I can any other private property.”

I am not going to give way.

This situation is very similar to the one I experienced when I was at Asda and we broke the net book agreement. Publishers had the right to set the price of books and nobody could undercut it, but Asda went to court and broke that agreement so now books can be sold at any price the retailer wants. It seems to me that Labour wants to go back to a time when publishers of books could set the price for books and ticket providers could set the price for tickets and nobody could do anything about it.

New clause 12, which guarantees that an event organiser must give somebody a refund up to 24 hours before an event, is essential if the Opposition want to get their way. If they want to ban somebody from selling on a ticket for the rugby world cup final, the only option for somebody who has bought a ticket and cannot go would be a refund. On too many occasions, event organisers will not allow refunds for events so what on earth is the customer supposed to do in such circumstances? The Opposition will not support insisting that they get a refund and they want to ban them from selling the ticket on, so somebody will be left with a ticket that they can do absolutely nothing with. How on earth can that be in the best interest of the consumer?

On the subject of the rugby world cup final, if people from New Zealand buy a lot of tickets for the final in the expectation that their team will get there only for it to be knocked out in the semi-final, we need a mechanism by which those fans can sell on their tickets to the fans of the team that will be in the final instead. It seems that the Opposition have not even thought about that prospect. The secondary market in tickets is an efficient way of getting tickets from one group of people to another so that the real fans can go. If Labour had its way, the real fans would not be able to go because they would be blocked from using any mechanism to get there.

I want to concentrate on new clause 13, which says:

“All products containing halal and kosher meat shall be labelled as such at the point of sale by retail and food outlets.”

For the purposes of the new clause, I have defined a food outlet as

“anywhere where food is served to the public.”

I have done that because I specifically wanted to include places such as schools and hospitals, as I think many parents and patients are concerned about food that they do not know the provenance or background of, and that information is important to them.

If that is the hon. Gentleman’s intention, his clause is far too simplistic. Does he not agree that in the interests of fairness and consumer transparency consumers have the right to know about the origins of non-religiously slaughtered meat, whether that meat has been stunned or not, if it has been stunned what method was used and the method of non-religious slaughter? That is a lot of information, but observant Muslims or Jews would like that information as well as people who object.

I have a great deal of sympathy with what the hon. Lady says. She seems to be making the point that we need more labelling, not less. If she is saying that my new clause is a step, but it does not go as far as she would like it to go, I am happy to take that criticism on the chin.

I support further labelling, but does my hon. Friend agree that it is wrong to look at religious slaughter in isolation from other forms of slaughter, as the hon. Member for Birmingham, Ladywood (Shabana Mahmood) said? Labelling could give information about how the animals lived—their housing, food and drug consumption. Why is he picking on religious communities in his new clause?

Let me make something clear. I am not picking on anyone. I do not want to ban anything. People want to buy religiously slaughtered meat, although that may not be my choice. It is Labour Members who want to ban everything that they do not happen to like. That is not my style. I happen to believe in freedom of choice, and I want people who want to buy religiously slaughtered meat to be free to make that choice. Equally, people who specifically do not want to buy that meat should be free to make that choice. So this is not about picking on anyone. It is not about trying to ban anybody from doing anything.

I do not really see who loses out from the new clause. It is to the advantage of those people who want to buy halal and kosher meat and to the advantage of those who specifically do not that meat is properly labelled. So I do not see who the victim of my new clause is. Everyone is a winner. It is to everybody’s advantage that meat is properly labelled and above board so that everyone knows that what they are buying is what they want to buy. That is the only intention behind my new clause; there is no other objective. I am not seeking to ban anything or stop anybody from doing anything they want to do. I merely seek to allow people to make an informed choice. My hon. Friend the Member for Huntingdon (Mr Djanogly) asks why. The simple reason is that there is a huge demand for labelling out in the country—there certainly is in my constituency. That is why I introduced a ten-minute rule Bill on this very issue two years ago. It was defeated by three votes, largely by the politically correct brigade on the Opposition Benches. It was a big issue in my constituency then. I contend that it is an even bigger issue today. It has not mushroomed out of nowhere. There is widespread customer demand that proper information be given so that people can make an informed choice.

I have said that I must make some headway.

British legislation requires the stunning of animals before slaughter, with the religious exemptions that the hon. Member for Birmingham, Ladywood (Shabana Mahmood) made clear. Religious traditions sometimes require people to slaughter without stunning. The exemption dates back to the Slaughter of Animals (Scotland) Act 1928 and the Slaughter of Animals Act 1933, which applies to England and Wales. The EU also granted derogations from stunning regulations for religious communities.

In recent years, animal groups, most notably the Farm Animal Welfare Council, have advocated labelling of some meat to decrease the amount purchased, thereby reducing the amount of unstunned meat, as my right hon. Friend the Member for East Yorkshire (Sir Greg Knight) said.

Neither the British Parliament nor the European Parliament has passed a law that requires labelling of unstunned meat, but there has been much debate about it in the past. My new clause would make it compulsory for halal and kosher meat to be labelled because, as a strong believer in freedom of choice, I think that one of the fundamental rights of the consumer is to know what they are purchasing.

I spent 12 years working for Asda before I entered the House. Some of the supermarkets are reluctant to do anything about this because it is inconvenient for them to go through the food chain to provide the labelling. When I was at Asda, I was taught that we were in business to do what was best for the customer—to do what the customer wanted, not what was for our convenience. I am rather worried that that attitude is slipping in some of our supermarket chains. It is not about what is most convenient for them; I do not care about that. They should be delivering what their customers want, and there is no doubt that this is what customers want to see.

Consumers cannot satisfy their preferences at present because not all meat products are labelled. Therefore, legislation requiring labelling is essential for consumers to exercise their right to make an informed decision.

I am not going to give way.

I would much prefer it if legislation was not required. I am not the type of person who wants to rush to legislation, but in the two years since my ten-minute rule Bill was introduced absolutely nothing has happened. There have been plenty of opportunities for the retailers to sort this out for themselves, and they have failed spectacularly to do anything about it.

This is important. According to the EU DIALREL project, the exemption from religious slaughter in schedule 12 to the Welfare of Animals (Slaughter or Killing) Regulations 1995 clearly states that the exemption applies to people of that religion—not to everybody. That implies that halal and kosher meat should be consumed by those of Muslim and Jewish faiths respectively, because that type of slaughter is specified for their religious needs. That is clearly not the case, because Muslims make up a small proportion of the UK population, yet the Halal Food Authority estimated two years ago that halal meat makes up 25% of the meat market. I suspect that the figure is even higher. Similarly, approximately 70% of kosher meat that is sold is not consumed by the Jewish community.

We are going far beyond the exemption that was designed for those people with their particular religious beliefs. There have been cases of schools, hospitals, pubs, sports arenas, cafés, markets and hotels serving halal meat to customers without their knowledge. I am led to believe that it even happened in the House of Commons canteens in 2010. To my dismay as a former retailer, it has certainly happened in some of the larger supermarket chains, and in some of the largest food outlets such as Pizza Hut, Domino’s and KFC. It has also happened in schools. In 2010, Harrow council faced a massive protest after announcing a plan to serve halal-only menus in the borough’s state primary schools, and parents complained that it was forced on them against their will.

Some 98% of consumers in the 2004 Co-op survey of consumer attitudes to the ethics of the food industry stated that they supported the humane treatment of animals. Considering that some halal and kosher meats are slaughtered without pre-stunning, many such consumers would not buy the meat if they were aware of what it was. Interestingly, Massood Khawaja, president of the Halal Food Authority, stated in September 2010:

“As Muslims have a choice of eating halal meat, non-Muslims should also have the choice of not eating it. Customers should know it is halal meat.”

An amendment to induce the compulsory labelling of unstunned halal and kosher meat and products would give consumers more freedom of choice, increase market efficiency, as retailers are enabled to respond to customer demand, and help to protect animal welfare rights.

It is not just me who thinks that. The Sikh Council UK has put out a statement agreeing with that. It believes that everyone has the right to purchase and consume food in accordance with their religious beliefs. Hindus have said that they, too, agree with my new clause, and believe the same thing. Many of these groups do not focus on animal welfare but specifically object to the religious blessing that goes with the practice. I will conclude with this particular point about halal and kosher meat. I do not know if hon. Members read the article by Taj Hargey, the director of the Muslim Educational Centre of Oxford and the imam of the Oxford Islamic Congregation, who said that the practice is

“covert religious extremism and creeping Islamic fundamentalism making its way into Britain by the back door. It is completely wrong that the food sensitivities of Britain’s Muslims—who amount to just 4.8% of the population—should take precedence over the other 95%. Halal meat should never be forced on customers without their knowing, surreptitiously and using clandestine methods. It’s unfair to everyone, non-Muslims and Muslims alike.”

He also said that the idea that Muslims cannot eat non-halal meat is completely wrong, and

“has no theological basis in the Koran, the supreme text of Islam.”

He said:

“I’m a dedicated Muslim, a devout religionist, an imam and intellectual scholar of Islam, but I eat whatever food is placed before me, with the obvious exception of pork. If you’re kind enough to invite me to your home, I would eat whatever meat you chose to serve”.

He concluded:

“It is high time the white, liberal, Guardian-reading classes stopped behaving like apologists and woke up. There is a fundamentalist Trojan horse in our midst, and we must take corrective action.”

Many people in this country are demanding that this House take the action that they would like to see.

Finally, and very briefly, new clause 14, which the hon. Member for Walthamstow said she supports, and which I hope the Minister will support, would introduce a mobile phone switching process that is led by the receiving communications service provider, rather than the one losing the custom. Currently, if someone wants to cancel their mobile phone contract, they must first approach the company they are leaving. The problem is that mobile phone operators have no incentive at all to proactively ensure that their customers are getting the best deal. They can overcharge them again and again until they say, “Actually, I want to leave”, before trying to win them back with some offer.

New clause 14 would keep mobile phone providers on their toes, ensuring that their customers constantly got the best real-time offer, because they would never get the chance to do that if the customer went to a competitor. They would act in the best interests of the consumer. That would be in line with what now happens in the banking and energy sectors. It is widely appreciated that the best way to encourage switching for consumers is to enable them to go to the provider they want and for it to do all the hard work for them. It is an anomaly that that does not apply to mobile phone switching. I think that it would make a great deal of sense for the Government to accept the new clause. I am pleased that the Opposition have agreed to support it and hope that the Government will too. It is a common-sense measure that will ensure a much better deal for consumers.

I will bring my remarks to a close. I look forward to hearing what other Members have to say. For your benefit, Mr Speaker—you were not here at the start—I repeat that if the chance arises I would very much like to press new clause 13, on labelling halal and kosher meat, to a vote, because I think that it is a matter of great importance to many people in the country.

I am delighted to be able to speak on new clauses 18 to 21, which stand in my name and those of the hon. Member for Hove (Mike Weatherley) and other hon. Friends. I add my support to new clauses 8, 16 and 17, which were tabled by my hon. Friends on the Opposition Front Bench and ably argued for by my hon. Friend the Member for Walthamstow (Stella Creasy) this afternoon and in Committee.

New clause 18 follows directly from the conclusions and recommendations of the recent excellent report by the all-party group on ticket abuse. I want to put on the record my thanks to colleagues across the House and all the outside experts who contributed to that excellent report. We found that the existence of a secondary market for event tickets is justified by the need of genuine consumers to pass on tickets that they can no longer use. To some extent, that is because event holders are not very good at facilitating refunds or exchange mechanisms, even though they sell tickets many months in advance of the event.

On that point, I will speak briefly to new clause 12. It is a shame that the hon. Member for Shipley (Philip Davies)—he is not listening now—would not allow any interventions, because I wanted to correct for the record some of the errors in what he said. He is right that we have regularly locked horns on the issue, but that does not mean I will sit back and not seek to correct him when I think he is wrong. First, the Opposition are seeking not to ban the resale of tickets, but to regulate and reform the market in the interests of consumers through these very sensible cross-party proposals. My hon. Friend the Member for Walthamstow did not “allude”—I think that was the word he used—to trying to ban the resale of tickets.

Secondly, the hon. Member for Shipley was incorrect to claim that no one gives refunds at the moment. The Rugby Football Union guarantees full refunds for high-demand matches—I am sure that the world cup would qualify—up to an hour before kick-off. It also provides legitimate resale platforms. This ensures that any investment goes back into the sport of rugby. The England and Wales Cricket Board has established ticket exchanges at each venue and centrally so that a supporter who can no longer attend a match or has a spare can legitimately re-sell their ticket. Those are just two examples among many more that are out there.

Does my hon. Friend agree that new clauses 16 and 18 are particularly powerful, because they would enable us to identify the power sellers—the people who buy tickets on an almost industrial scale, and by doing so corner the market, rip off consumers and push up prices? Unless we do so, it is more likely that £250 tickets for the rugby world cup can be sold for over £1,000, as is happening at the moment. That has to be a bad thing, and we must stop it.

I agree with my hon. Friend. I thank him for his work in the all-party group in producing the report that has led and informed us in tabling the new clauses.

Our report recommended that the live event industry should do more to provide refunds. The new clause tabled by the hon. Member for Shipley could be ruinous for the live event industry while removing all the risk for the industrial touts of whom my hon. Friend the Member for Blaenau Gwent (Nick Smith) spoke. Most touts will aim to sell their tickets on the internet about four days in advance, so under the hon. Gentleman’s plans, any they do not manage to sell for a profit they could simply give back to the promoter for a full refund the day before, by which time the promoter will be unlikely to be able to sell them all on again. I fear that rather than helping ordinary consumers, as the hon. Gentleman has no doubt argued, that would mean more tickets being acquired by ticket touts who no longer face the uncertainty of whether they will be able to shift them, thereby manipulating the supply even more than they already do. A better balance would be to give refunds up to a reasonable point before the event, with facilitated resale after that if the event has sold out—as we set out in our report, which I hope the industry will take on board.

While accepting that there is a role for a legitimate secondary ticket market, the all-party group found considerable problems with how this market, which is estimated to be worth about £1 billion a year, works at present. In particular, we found that it does not adhere to the same principles of transparency and consumer protection that other markets are held to. To address these shortcomings, we have put together some modest proposals which, far from driving ticket resale underground, as some of those involved in it have claimed, would increase consumer confidence in the secondary market and therefore be very good for business.

Our first two new clauses address the lack of transparency. New clause 18 is about who is selling the ticket. It would place a duty on secondary ticketing platforms to provide basic identifying information about the individual or business offering a particular ticket or set of tickets for sale. It would allow consumers to say how prolific and reliable a particular seller is—in other words, whether they are a tout or a fellow fan and, if they are a tout, whether the tickets they have sold in the past have been as advertised. That would make the secondary ticketing platforms a lot more like the other internet marketplaces that many of use regularly and with confidence, such as eBay, Amazon and

Importantly, the new clause would also require secondary ticketing platforms to be transparent in cases where the seller is also the event holder. The practice of event organisers secretly allocating whole blocks of tickets directly to the secondary market has been on the rise, due to the failure of successive Governments to intervene in the market on behalf of consumers or the creative sector. It was exposed in the Channel 4 “Dispatches” programme, “The Great Ticket Scandal”, broadcast in 2012. I cannot blame those who do this. They cannot stop the touts, who have not contributed in any way to the event—unlike the artist, the venue, the agent, the promoter, and so on—from making huge profits off the back of their hard work, so why not try to make some of that money for themselves, or, as I like to see it, have a piece of the poacher’s pie? That is their decision, but they should have to be transparent about it. Hiding behind the secondary market and allowing fans to believe that the ticket they are buying has been sold at face value before and they are buying from a third party is simply dishonest.

There is also a dishonest practice whereby a secondary ticketing platform or its employees or shareholders buy and sell tickets themselves, as the “Dispatches” programme also exposed. Employees of the platforms featured were shown with catalogues of credit cards, trying to buy as many tickets as possible to gigs. A leaked operations manual sent to me shortly after “Dispatches” aired showed that that was also a key part of the viagogo business model. The manual showed, among other things, that a company called Andro Capital, which was linked to viagogo’s then chief executive, Eric Baker, was also its most favoured power seller. Interestingly, a box at the start of the chapter explaining such dealing to employees stressed:


Viagogo has since said that it has abandoned that practice, and Christoph Homann of GetMeIn! also assured the all-party group in his evidence that it does not itself buy tickets, either. In that case, they will not be affected by the new duty and have no reason to oppose it. Even if they or other secondary ticketing platforms still engage in such dealing, I can see no good reason why the law should permit them to keep that information secret from their consumers when it may make a material difference to a buying decision. I hope, therefore, that the Minister will consider adopting the measure.

I have mentioned the Channel 4 “Dispatches” investigation into the problems and I am also pleased to inform the House that the BBC’s “Watchdog” is also very keen on highlighting them. Indeed, they will feature in its shows on 21 and 28 May, and I am sure that hon. Members on both sides of the House will be glued to their TVs, watching them. “You and Yours” on Radio 4 also runs regular features on the issue, as do numerous national newspapers, including The Mirror, the Daily Mail and The Times, as well as trade magazines, such as the excellent Audience.

New clause 19 relates to the transparency of the product itself—that is, the ticket. Knowing the characteristics of a ticket would in many cases make a material difference to a buying decision, particularly in the case of seated events, in which a person’s position in the venue can make a significant difference to their enjoyment of the performance or the experience. Providing that information —or, indeed, the ticket number when there is general admission to the event—would also give consumers the confidence that the individual or company selling the ticket actually has tickets in hand and is not just speculating that they will be able to provide them at a later date. When a consumer wants to buy a number of tickets, the information will help them to ensure that they get seats together or at least close by.

The secondary platforms themselves were asked about that as part of the all-party group’s inquiry. StubHub said in its evidence that it requires seat information to be provided, but an investigation of its website shows that such information appears to be hit and miss. On the whole, it tended to be single tickets, which were probably being sold by ordinary fans, that had full information, while listings of two, four, six or more tickets, which were probably being sold by a professional, did not.

One of the other key pieces of information of which a consumer should be aware is a ticket’s original face value, which in many cases is another indicator of the quality of the product. In their evidence to the inquiry, representatives from the Rugby Football Union said that the cheapest tickets at Twickenham—those they keep cheap to try to get families to come along and to encourage grass-roots participation—often end up being resold at higher prices than some of their premium tickets, some of which may still be available.

Many consumers who are less conscious of how these secondary markets work think that because they are paying more for a ticket, they will get a premium service or seat. Many others do not even know that the website they are using is a secondary market rather than the primary or official source, given that such sites pay significant sums to show up first in Google rankings. Making sure that consumers are made aware of the original price of the ticket they are buying at the earliest opportunity, not just on the last screen—if at all—therefore gives them another piece of the information that they need to make an informed choice about whether to enter into such a purchase.

I do not think that any genuine fans who needed to sell on their tickets would have a problem with providing the basic information about the product they are selling, and I cannot see why any professional reseller would either. Even a street tout shows people a ticket—and therefore the seat number and face value—before they buy it. The secondary ticketing platforms, which claim to have higher standards, should therefore have no problem adapting to the new provisions.

Moving on from transparency, more of which should reduce the chances of things going wrong in the secondary market in the first place, new clause 20 concerns the recourse available to consumers when they do. There have been numerous recent reports of thousands of event goers being turned away with counterfeit or invalid tickets that they had bought via the big four secondary ticketing websites, all of which heavily promote their reliability, with prominent guarantees that tickets are genuine. The latest example to make the news involved the hundreds of Drake fans turned away from the O2 arena in north Greenwich.

It is welcome that all the big four companies say that they offer refunds, although over the years I have received a handful of complaints about their being less than prompt in doing so. As Reg Walker from the Iridium Consultancy pointed out during our second evidence session, people who turn up at venues with unusable tickets have all incurred at least some travel costs getting there, and in some cases they have come from abroad for the express purpose of using the ticket. That echoes the findings of the recent UK Music report on music tourism, including that ancillary spending just from music events is worth more than £2 billion a year to the country’s economy.

For such people, a full refund on the ticket, while welcome, will still leave them out of pocket. New clause 20 would, therefore, allow those consumers to claim back the extra costs associated with attending an event up to a reasonable level, which we suggest should be 200% of the total purchase price paid to the platform. The new clause would place responsibility for that initial payback on the secondary ticketing platforms, because they offer guarantees that they say consumers pay for in their significant service charges. However, having paid out that money, the new clause makes it clear that the secondary ticketing platform may recover it from the seller of the ticket. The payback should be made promptly, unless the police or other relevant authorities are investigating the buyer or seller for committing or trying to commit fraud. The only individuals or businesses that the new clause would hurt, therefore, are those who have sold dodgy tickets and consequently caused financial loss to the consumer.

The new clause would have the positive benefit of giving consumers the confidence that they will not be left out of pocket when they purchase tickets through the secondary market if those tickets turn out to be counterfeit or invalid. Again, far from driving the trade in tickets underground, it would have the effect of driving consumers to use websites that offer such protections, instead of those that do not and, in particular, instead of blokes outside the venue on the night.

Our last new clause, new clause 21, simply defines terms used in the previous three new clauses, so I will not detain the House by explaining it.

The proposals are not radical. If the Minister or hon. Members whom have spoken against them asked their constituents whether they want to know what they are buying and whom they are buying it from when they spend what are often significant sums, they would find that most of them said yes. The proposals would not abolish the secondary market or drive it underground; in fact, they would bring it out of the shadows into the mainstream. No longer would so many people still see it as a murky market; it would be a legitimate secondary market that works—as all markets should—in the interests of consumers, with full transparency and adequate protection. The only people who have opposed the proposals are those making large amounts of money from the status quo. It is time that this House and this Government stopped standing up for the interests of such people, and finally put fans first.

I congratulate the hon. Member for Washington and Sunderland West (Mrs Hodgson) on a thorough interpretation of the new clauses.

Music, theatre, comedy and sport are a vital part of British society and the British economy, and our creative industries are worth more than £36 billion a year. They generate £70,000 every minute for the UK economy, and employ 1.5 million people in the UK. That is why it is vital to have a healthy and transparent ticket market, yet with increasing frequency, secondary ticketing resellers are causing dramatically inflated prices for the fans, and taking away revenue from performers. That has to stop.

I have consistently been a champion of the free market and I do not have a problem with artists or sports teams charging whatever they wish for their services. That is their prerogative, and they should be allowed to set the prices of their tickets or, if they choose, to sell them through secondary ticketing or auction websites. However, as the online marketplace has become quicker and easier to use, a large number of unsavoury and illegal practices have sprung up surrounding ticket reselling websites. That is why I, along with colleagues from both sides of the House, founded the all-party group on ticket abuse. We conducted a review and the results were published recently, as we have heard, with new clauses recommended as a result.

One key aspect of an honest and transparent ticket purchasing process is the intention of the buyer at the point of purchase. No one would begrudge a Rolling Stones fan who has become ill the day before the show the opportunity to sell their ticket to someone else. However, an increasing number of people are buying tickets with absolutely no intention of going to the event. Instead, those career touts buy tickets solely with the intention of denying them to real fans, whom they can squeeze for profit by reselling their tickets to a “sold out” event.

That situation is not limited to fans who simply waited too long to buy tickets. With internet ticket selling becoming more streamlined, touts are able to use sophisticated computer systems to buy large volumes of tickets automatically mere seconds or minutes after they go online. That can often mean that it is practically impossible for genuine fans to get access to the event, forcing them to rely on an artificially created secondary market, and depriving content creators of revenue for their event. That is unacceptable.

On this issue I fundamentally disagree with my hon. Friend the Member for Shipley (Philip Davies), who raised some points earlier, because we would all suffer, including the artists. Just because an artist has received the full value for a concert that is sold out does not mean that they—or another artist—would not suffer elsewhere. For example, suppose someone has a budget of £500 a year for going to venues. They might think, “I’ll go to 10 concerts in that year and buy some merchandising and other products while I am there”, but if they then spend £200, £300 or even £500 on one concert, they will not go to the other nine. No wonder there is underselling in other concerts because people do not necessarily have the money, and we all lose out as a result.

My hon. Friend is shaking his head, but he must understand that my point is right. I would, of course, prefer no legislation on the subject and to rely on industry-led solutions, as we heard earlier. A potential solution to touting, which has been adopted by some venues already, is to use credit card verification. However, touts often generate such large profits from many events that that method is ineffective. There are also additional problems of crowd control and so on. If hon. Members who disagree with that point had bothered to come to the all-party group when we took evidence, they would have heard from promoters who have tried those other methods that such things do not work, and they would not try them again for all sorts of reasons.

The Metropolitan police published a comprehensive report on fraudulent ticketing and the dangers it posed to the Olympics; it specifically cites ticket fraud, touting and ticket reselling websites as areas of concern. Among several issues, the Met noted that websites with servers based overseas were causing serious problems by advertising fraudulent tickets, and making it difficult for law enforcement agencies to track the offenders or shut down illegal sites. The report stressed—as do I—the need for an open and transparent system for ticket reselling, with clear and appropriate regulations.

Transparency is key to protecting not just content creators but ticket buyers from dubious and misleading transactions. Again, I will refer to my hon. Friend the Member for Shipley because I never thought there would be a connection between halal meat and secondary ticketing. I was keen to intervene on him but he would not allow me to. All through his speech, however, he made the point that clear labelling and the consumer being aware of what they were buying was fundamental. He said—I wrote it down—that it is a fundamental right that consumers know what they are buying. That is exactly what the new clauses are saying, no more and no less. For instance, it is common in the entertainment industries for all or part of the fee for professionals involved in an event to be paid in tickets. The venue might be paid in tickets to a corporate box and a promoter or manager may be given some as part of their fee. That is done with the tacit understanding that recipients of such tickets will subsequently be able to sell them for significantly more than their face value. It is, of course, the prerogative of the content creators if they wish to do this, but it should be done transparently.

Some hon. Members, including my hon. Friend the Member for Shipley, have suggested that trying to regulate ticket touting is an interference in the natural free market. However to say this is to misunderstand—and be wrong about—one of the key principles of the free market, which is the ability for the market to respond to demand by increasing supply. In the case of sports matches or live music, there is no way to increase the supply. There are only so many games in the season and bands can only play so many dates. That is why it is so important for the content creators to be in control of how their tickets are sold. It does not in any way infringe their right to charge however much they want for the tickets, as long as it is part of a transparent and well regulated system that works in the best interests of fans and performers.

New clauses 18 to 21 are intended to assist that transparency. None of the clauses would restrict the secondary markets, but they would become more accountable. In particular, people who had been sold an invalid ticket would be compensated more than just the ticket price to reflect the true cost of attending. New clause 20 would restrict the cost to twice the price paid for the ticket, which might not be the full cost to those attending, but would at least give some incentive to those selling to get the ticket price right, without being an open cheque book.

We have come a long way since I first supported the private Member’s Bill of the hon. Member for Washington and Sunderland West (Mrs Hodgson) a few years ago. Then, there was little support for measures to protect consumers from the worst aspects of ticket touting. Now, I am pleased to say that, with increased knowledge and understanding, there is increased agreement on both sides of the House that something needs to be done. The small measures suggested in new clauses 18 to 21 are a step in the right direction, and I trust that the Minister will address at least some of the issues when she responds later.

Order. By my reckoning, eight hon. Members are seeking to catch my eye. Colleagues will be aware that the moment of interruption is 7 o’clock. They will be able to do the arithmetic for themselves, but if everyone speaks for approximately five minutes and no longer, it should be possible to accommodate everybody.

It is a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Hove (Mike Weatherley) who spoke so well in support of the new clauses tabled by the hon. Member for Washington and Sunderland West (Mrs Hodgson). I also wish to associate myself with the clear arguments put forward by the hon. Member for Walthamstow (Stella Creasy) in respect of other amendments in this group.

I wish to speak to new clause 15, in my name and that of the hon. Members for East Lothian (Fiona O’Donnell) and for Batley and Spen (Mike Wood). I raised this issue in Committee, although new clause 15 is not simply a retread of the new clause I tabled there about product recalls, especially of electrical items, and safety. It is a new and improved new clause, with added provisions based on the very fine contribution by the hon. Member for Batley and Spen in an Adjournment debate on 24 March.

When my original new clause was debated in Committee, the hon. Member for East Lothian had to speak to it, as I was in the United States as part of a delegation on the Colombian peace process. I pay tribute to the hon. Lady for speaking so well on the new clause in Committee.

The purpose of the new clause is to try to make good the deficiencies in the product recall system. I am one of those people, probably like many other Members, who laboured under the assumption that there are very clear schemes, strict regimes and tightly managed fine systems for product recalls, particularly for products that can threaten the life and health of families and the fabric of properties. We read about products catching fire and being recalled—washing machines, cookers and so on—but the Electrical Safety Council report “Safer Products, Better Business” shows that most product recalls succeed in recalling only 20% of products, with some recalling only 10%. That means there are a lot of unsafe products in people’s homes, threatening lives and property.

We are told that the Bill is all about giving consumers rights; that it will give more power to consumers in relation to faults; that they will be more aware that products are unsuitable and more able to return them and get redress. Surely we also need to make good the serious gap between faults that manufacturers and suppliers know about, but consumers do not. New clause 15 would improve recall standards and create direct powers for the Secretary of State to take more responsibility in that regard.

The additional points we have included in the new version of the new clause come from the hon. Member for Batley and Spen, who highlighted existing US federal legislation. The Consumer Product Safety Commission, a federal body, operates mainly under the Consumer Product Safety Act 1972, which was enhanced by the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act 2008. It takes federal responsibility for recall measures and is able to ensure that the considerable gaps in suppliers’ and manufacturers’ customer records are made good. It has become a federal responsibility to ensure that records are kept of who has bought products and where they have gone.

The Government seem to be relying on the industry for that. That is what I took from an answer the Minister gave me in January. She said that there is no problem because the industry has not told her that there is one, but it currently relies on its records of ownership, and they depend on whether people return their warranty and registration cards when they buy products. A lot of people do not because they think they will receive a great deal of marketing bumph and other material they do not want, but doing so is vital if a product recall is required. What we are left with are general media information recalls and signage, which people may not see or take in, being put up in various stores. That is why our recalls do not have a very high success rate, and that is leaving people at risk.

Order. The hon. Gentleman is addressing the House with inimitable eloquence as always, but I think I can confidently predict that he is reaching his peroration.

The other point the Government make is that this will be the subject of a European directive in a couple of years’ time. I would only make the point that we should not have to wait for a European directive, and that it would be better if a meaningful European directive were transposed through existing legislation. New clause 15 would provide exactly those powers and that legislation.

I would like to speak to new clauses 13 and 22, and make a small reference to new clauses 18 to 21.

New clause 13 was explained so eloquently by my hon. Friend the Member for Shipley (Philip Davies) as being a matter of consumer choice. I have a huge degree of sympathy with that, but I will explain why I cannot support him today. We should all know exactly what we are eating. We should have a good deal of information about how animals have lived and died. I have major concerns that Europe does not have the same high standards of animal welfare that we have in this country, yet we import meat from those animals that have been raised with living standards we do not find acceptable and have outlawed, such as farrowing pens for pigs.

Briefing from the Eurogroup for Animals, published in 2011, gives some interesting information about European standards of animal husbandry and, indeed, animal slaughter—much of the meat involved enters our own food chain—and makes it clear that many of us should be very concerned about those issues. That organisation opposes the slaughter of all animals without their being stunned beforehand. The briefing states:

“In 2010, the European Commission requested from Member States official data regarding numbers of animals ritually slaughtered within their territory.”

Unfortunately, there was a real lack of data. According to the briefing,

“most of the countries do not have reliable figures available as no traceability exists to differentiate between animals”

when it comes to how they have been slaughtered. Of course, I am concerned about how they have lived as well. There is also a significant over-slaughtering of animals for halal and kosher meat within the food chain to allow for the amount of demand that might arise in countries that import such meat, which means that there is no way of showing what happens to animals that have been killed in that way and where they end up in the food chain.

This is indeed a labelling issue, but I must say to my hon. Friend the Member for Shipley that, according to some of the information that has been gleaned through the examination of people who do not wish animals to be killed without being stunned, it is almost impossible to trace the meat involved, and that without Europe-wide traceability, his proposal will be totally unenforceable. I appreciate that many consumers would like to know how the animals were treated, where and in what conditions they were raised, the extent of the confinement in which they were placed, and how they were slaughtered. While I agree with my hon. Friend’s sentiments—I, too, believe that consumers should know exactly what they are purchasing—I therefore cannot support his new clause.

Let me now say something about the tenancy issues that have been raised. I quote my hon. Friend the Member for Shipley a great deal, because he talks a lot of good sense, and his heart is often in the right place. However, I believe that if we put all the onus on landlords when it comes to any fees associated with the checking of tenants—they often have to be checked now because of the rules on residency, which govern whether they have the right to rent in this country—those fees will go into the chain, and other ways will be found to put up rents. I cannot believe that the Labour party wants that to happen.

A small letting agency in St Albans, which contacted me about the Labour party’s proposal, is deeply unhappy about it. Given that the agency provides a service enabling people to go into its office, choose from the properties that are advertised, be shown round and so on, why should a fee not be incurred for the benefit that the potential tenant enjoys? The landlord may enjoy a different benefit in the form of the checking of the tenants; the benefits are not always exactly the same.

I suggest that the Government should be extremely cautious before accepting any blandishments from the Labour party, which constantly tries to impose all the cost on businesses. We, as consumers, also want a degree of protection.

I am afraid that this is a very short debate.

Part of those fees go towards ensuring that there is a market for people who want a good choice of tenanted properties that they can go and look at.

Let me now add my few words to the extensive debate about tickets. The hon. Member for Washington and Sunderland West (Mrs Hodgson) made a very good point about touts who would potentially sell tickets back. That is a flaw, but I have a huge amount of sympathy with those who have bought a ticket that cannot be used for some reason. I do not see how it can be wrong to sell that ticket on, as I might sell on anything else that I might have purchased. My hon. Friend the Member for Shipley made the valid point that if a major company selling tickets en bloc wants to try to stop the practice, it should be working with the Government for that purpose.

I do not wish us to outlaw the selling on of tickets that people may have purchased quite rightfully and of which they then wish to dispose. I feel that that would creep into other areas and start applying to people who buy the latest thing from Kate Moss At Topshop, the latest pair of trainers or the latest toy, and then choose to sell it on. I think that that is a slippery slope, and I do not wish to go down it.

Order. Of course I am in colleagues’ hands, but I simply point out that anyone who speaks for longer than three minutes will knowingly be stopping another colleague contributing. I just put that in my usual gentle fashion.

I want to speak to new clause 22 about letting agents’ charges. When the Communities and Local Government Committee did a report on the private rented sector last year, we had more evidence and more complaints about letting agents’ charges than almost anything else. That was reflected by the OFT, which said that complaints to Consumer Direct about letting agents were almost all about fees and charges. It is not just that there is one fee up front for a tenancy agreement; there are also the charges for inventories and for credit checks, and people enter into a viewing not knowing what the ultimate charge will be. It is a charge they have to find up front as a prospective tenant, at the same time as they are trying to find the deposit, and often these are people on very low incomes.

The process gets repeated to a degree every time people renew their tenancy after six months or 12 months, and that militates against having longer term contracts. Agents see this as an incentive not to let longer term contracts because short-term contracts mean renewals and more fees for them. I have described letting agents as being a bit like football agents as they make their money out of transfers and renewals of contracts. We ought to be extremely wary of that.

Shelter said the average size of a fee to a tenant was £355. The Foxtons website gives its fees as £420 to a tenant to create a contract, £96 to renew it and £150 for an inventory check. Such charges are replicated by most letting agents.

The Committee responded that there should be absolute transparency of fees up front when a property is advertised and it must be clear what the totality of charges to tenants will be and there should be no double charging. If there is transparency, it will be harder for a letting agent to charge a tenant and a landlord for the same thing, which happens at present.

We want these changes to be put in a mandatory code of practice, but the Government have not agreed to do that. On transparency, all that has happened is the Advertising Standards Authority has given a ruling saying the fees that are compulsory should be shown up front as part of the price quoted. However, when we go on websites like that of Foxtons, we see those fees are in very small print, so, in practice, letting agents are going through the motions when it comes to the ASA ruling, but they are not sticking to the spirit of it.

We did not recommend a complete abolition of fees to tenants. What we said was that it has been done in Scotland and that we should review the Scottish experience. The Committee will come back in the autumn and look at the Scottish experience and consider whether banning charges to tenants means higher rents. If so, there is a question as to whether tenants favour paying a bit more in rent rather than having a massive fee up front. The Committee will also look at the fact that the contract is with the landlord, not the tenant. We will take further evidence on those matters in the autumn.

I wish to speak briefly to new clauses 18 to 21. I was a member of the Public Bill Committee and we had a long debate about ticket touts and the secondary ticketing market. I think there is cross-party support on this, and I pay tribute to my hon. Friend the Member for Hove (Mike Weatherley) and the hon. Member for Washington and Sunderland West (Mrs Hodgson) for the work they have done as chairs of the all-party group on ticket abuse of which I am proud to be a member. The report that has been produced is excellent and is close to my heart as Knebworth, which is in my constituency, is the largest outdoor music venue in the UK. I am therefore very keen to ensure that we eradicate ticket touting for all events. Having cross-party support to eradicate ticket touting is very welcome, and we need to push that forward.

In Committee I referred to an organisation called Twickets. It takes a photograph of the ticket in question and places it on its Twitter feed and it can then sell that ticket for the face value or less. That is the only way in which that ticket can be sold. That provides a good opportunity for someone to sell a ticket at face value or less to a third party whom they do not know.

One thing that disturbed me in Committee, and one of the reasons why I cannot add my name to new clauses 18 to 21, is that botnets are buying up huge amounts of tickets from the online retailers, and 90% of tickets in the UK are currently sold online. So one huge problem facing us is how to stop these botnets buying up the tickets. Consumer behaviour is in many ways driving the problem, because consumers are prepared to pay almost any price and so they accept the market; they pay the price and that allows ticket touts to flourish. We need to focus on how we can remove ticket touts from the UK and how we eradicate them as much as we can.

Many people feel that because they are buying a ticket online they are not engaging in behaviour that is associated with a criminal activity, but few of the people who would buy a ticket online would speak to a ticket tout in the street outside a venue and buy a ticket off them. Therefore, part of this may be about educating people so that they understand that when they are buying these tickets online, they are helping some people who are often engaged in criminal activity and they are also working with a group of organisations that are not putting money back into the film and music industries. I am not able to support these new clauses. Although I agree with the spirit of them, I do not feel they would do enough to eradicate the scourge of ticket touts.

I rise to support new clause 22 which is an important first step in addressing a private rented sector into which many hundreds of thousands of people who would previously perhaps have been allocated a social housing dwelling have been forced because council houses and housing association properties are currently in short supply. Many of them have to move over and over again: often these are people on very low incomes and they are hit with punitive charges by profiteering rogue letting agents. I say that this is an important first step because it is not just about the charges associated with establishing a tenancy in the first instance.

A letting agency in Derby, Professional Properties, hits people not only with the sorts of charges we are debating, which would be covered by the new clause, but with additional spurious charges when they end their tenancy. I am dealing with one case in particular where a young woman who looked after the property in which she had been living very well was hit with an enormous charge of more than £1,000 for spurious repairs. As a result of my intervention that charge was dropped, but there has been a refusal to allow her to have her deposit back. Those are shameful tactics by letting agents who are exploiting a very vulnerable group in society, and it is incumbent on us in this place to stand up for people who are being exploited in this way.

It is important to acknowledge that the private rented sector does have a role to play, but we want a responsible private rented sector and a responsible letting agents sector. Rents in the private sector have gone through the roof, so there is ample money in this system without these additional charges being heaped on people, who, as I have said, are often on very low incomes. I strongly support new clause 22 as a very important first step to regularising the private rented sector in our country.

I want to speak primarily to new clause 22, but first let me briefly speak in support of new clause 14. I thought I was the only person who had problems with switching, believing it to be another in the long list of failures in my life, but since I got elected I have realised that there is a massive issue to address so I fully support that provision. I have some sympathy with new clause 13, as I would like to see better labelling, but I am not sure I can support it as drafted.

On new clause 22, I should declare that I do not have any buy-to-let properties—I struggled enough to qualify for one mortgage, so the idea of qualifying for a further mortgage is probably a bit of a joke. Going through the list of other Members who have relevant interests, I noted that an awful lot of them were on the Opposition Benches. I assume that no Labour Members who rent out a property do so through a letting agent that charges fees, because to do so would be to fall foul of a word we are not allowed to say in here.

With this new clause we have a campaign going on. We have student union politics at the moment whereby the Opposition pick an issue and throw it out there in the hope it gets some traction. They do not think it through; there is nothing more to it than that. This time the issue is letting agent fees. It is my belief that they have not spoken to the letting agents or to many of the tenants who have to pay the fees—if they had, they would not be proposing this measure in such a way. I want a sensible debate on this, but we do not get it. As I have said, what we have had is an orchestrated campaign in which Labour opponents, many of whom live in massive houses in particular constituencies, have been told by the Labour party centrally here in London to parrot a particular line. They do not care about it to the extent that they have ever stood up and talked about it before. My Labour opponent, who wrote to me about this, certainly never had a word to say about it before she was told to do so by Labour headquarters in London. That is what is going on here. We are not having a sensible debate about this measure, which hits some of the big cities such as London, or about repeat fees. Labour has taken this scattergun approach in the hope of trying to drum up support for the measure, but what will happen is that rents will go up, because these charges will not disappear; the tenant will have to pay them in some way.

In many houses in my constituency, particularly in Goole which is relatively poor, the landlords do not charge bonds. They say is that if they cannot charge a relatively small fee—the biggest company in my constituency, Goole Property Centre, does not charge repeat fees or fees to people who do not then get a property—they will charge bonds instead. The cost of getting into a property to begin with could double or quadruple in my constituency.

I can tell Members what some of the letting agencies use their fees for. A large number of those who are renting are foreign tenants, and the agencies try to provide somebody who speaks their language and who gives them additional support, often getting them signed up to gas and electricity. They also help out with some of the simple things, which lead to a huge number of letters in my postbag. I am talking about things like bin collections—how to follow the rules—and community cohesion problems, which occur when large numbers of foreign migrants live in homes in multiple occupation. Landlords use their letting fees to subsidise such activity, and that is what will disappear. This is an ill-thought out policy from the Labour party. Let us have a sensible debate about it. The hon. Member for Sheffield South East (Mr Betts) said that it was too early to make a decision, because we need to see what happens with the trial in Scotland. Unfortunately, Labour has decided not to wait, but wants to continue with a student union type approach to try to build something around the cost of living issue. It is a bit pathetic in my view, which is why I will not support this measure until we have a proper and sensible debate.

I am concerned about the way in which this debate on halal and kosher has been taking place in the country and about some of the things that have been said in the Chamber. At the heart of this debate is a suggestion that somehow the halal and kosher slaughtering processes are more painful for the animal than the stunning process. Some 90% of the meat in this country is stunned, so we are talking about just 10% of meat. I am sure that Members can see behind what the hon. Member for Shipley (Philip Davies) is saying. He claims that the whole country is concerned about the issue. As somebody who is virtually a vegetarian, but occasionally will eat meat, I am concerned not just about the rights of animals but about the issue of experimentation on animals, which I speak up about and campaign against. The newspaper that is going on about halal meat does not talk about experimentation on animals, which is real cruelty. We know that it just wants to have a go at one particular group of people. I want to deal with one central question, which seems to be the accepted wisdom of everyone here, and that is whether the kosher and halal method of slaughtering is more painful.

A scientific study was carried out by Professor Schultz and his colleague at Hanover university in Germany. They took one group of animals and followed the halal and kosher slaughtering process, and then took another group and followed the stunning process. They placed electrodes on the animals concerned and monitored the level of pain experienced by the animals. If anyone is squeamish here, they can place their hands over their ears. This is what they said about the halal method:

“The first three seconds from the time of Islamic slaughter as recorded on the EEG did not show any change from the graph before slaughter, thus indicating that the animal did not feel any pain during or immediately after the incision…For the following 3 seconds, the EEG recorded a condition of deep sleep—unconsciousness. This is due to the large quantity of blood gushing out from the body…After the above-mentioned 6 seconds, the EEG recorded zero level, showing no feeling of pain at all…As the brain message…dropped to zero level, the heart was still pounding and the body convulsing”—

at this point, the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and other organisations might say that the animal is suffering, because it is convulsing, but the reason for that is not pain, but that the blood is leaving the body and the bones in the body structure are convulsing. That is not pain—[Interruption.] I wish hon. Members would listen.

With the stunning method, although the animal appeared to fall unconscious after the stunning, in fact the EEG graph

“showed severe pain immediately after stunning”.

Let us be realistic about stunning. It is not a nice little prick; it is done via an electric shock or sometimes, with some animals, a pistol. We are not talking about a painless death.

No, I will not, because I only have a few minutes.

The third thing to notice is that the

“hearts of animals stunned by C.B.P. stopped beating earlier as compared to those of the animals slaughtered according to the”

halal meat method. No one wants to talk about the science, because the accepted wisdom goes with the prejudice that I am sorry to say certain newspapers in this country show towards certain groups without looking at the evidence.

No; as I said, I am not going to give way.

I am very concerned about how animals are treated and reared and concerned that they should not be treated cruelly when they are transported. We should have a proper scientific debate about slaughtering, because the evidence is out there. Concern is perpetuated because most people do not know how the halal or kosher methods of slaughter take place. If they looked into the studies that have been done in America—I do not have the time to go into all of them—they would find that this is a proper system with the animal’s level of pain being monitored—[Interruption.] I know that Government Members do not want to hear this, but I am sorry: they are going to have to listen to me. I have the Floor, and I am not—[Interruption.]

Thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker.

I am probably saying something that a lot of people are finding a bit difficult to swallow, but it is about time that the counter-argument and the full facts were presented to the country and to Parliament. For far too long, the debate has been skewed, because certain sections of the media want to deal with just one aspect, but they are misleading people. A myth is being perpetuated that somehow kosher and halal methods, carried out as they should be, are more painful and cause more suffering to the animal, but that is incorrect. The stunning method is probably more painful, so banning things or labelling based on “humaneness” or whether animals are being treated properly is wrong. I want to say more, but I will leave it at that, because others want to speak.

I will not detain the House for long. I want to talk about new clause 13. I was hoping that my hon. Friend the Member for Shipley (Philip Davies) would not divide the House on it, but it has highlighted yet again the extremely important issue of food labelling and consumer choice, and the work that still has to be done.

I start with a simple principle and question. Should consumers be allowed to know where their food has come from, how it has been prepared and how it has been slaughtered? For me, the answer to that simple question is yes so that consumers can make an informed choice. However, I accept that the issue is more complicated than that and more complex than this simple new clause. I am not being critical of my hon. Friend when I say that, and I completely understand why he has worded it as he has. However, although I have great sympathy with new clause 13, I cannot support it as it stands.

In essence, the stunning of livestock has been mandatory in the EU since 1979, although member states can grant exemptions for religious slaughter. Some people in this Chamber might want to follow the lead of Denmark and ban non-stunned slaughter altogether on animal welfare grounds, but I for one would certainly not want to go down that road. As my hon. Friend has said, the proposal is not about banning anything, nor should it be. I strongly believe that consumers should have the right to make an informed choice, and the new clause should serve as a warning shot across the bows of Government that the issue will not go away.

The Government are going to have to grasp the nettle at some point and for me that point needs to come sooner rather than later. I look forward to hearing what the Minister has to say.

We have had a varied and wide-ranging debate this afternoon, so I shall do my best to cover as many of the issues that Members have raised as I can. First, however, I want to explain the Government amendments, which are designed to protect consumers from a delay in receiving a refund. We discussed the issue in Committee and although delay might arise only in a minority of cases, the Government are persuaded that the potential detriment means that this is a sensible change to make. We are ensuring that any refund must be made without undue delay and always within 14 days of the trader agreeing that the consumer is entitled to a refund. Since we discussed that in Committee my Department has been consulting business organisations and consumer groups to identify the best way to make the change without disadvantaging either consumers or businesses. I am glad that the Opposition support the change.

The Government agree that consumers should be protected from fraudulent, counterfeit and misleading ticket sales. I think that everybody in the House would agree with that. However, we also need to allow the market to operate for the benefit of consumers who would miss out on events without it. We have made new regulations that will come into force this year to empower and inform consumers. From June, traders will have to ensure that consumers have all the information they need before they buy. We published detailed guidance when the regulations were made in December 2013, but since then the Trading Standards Institute has been working on additional guidance. We have today updated our guidance on those regulations to make it clear what that means for ticket sales. That went live on our website this morning. It includes clarification that if the ticket is for a specific seat that information must be given, that the total cost, including delivery costs and other charges, must be given and that, depending on the circumstances, the face value may also need to be given.

In addition, from October of this year we are making it easier for consumers who have been misled by a trader to take their own action to get their money back and, if appropriate, to get damages as well. Armed with that information and access to redress, consumers will be empowered to make use of the market for their benefit and hopefully not fall victim to fraudulent, counterfeit or misleading ticket sales. There are also rules in place to protect consumers, and when a marketplace is aware of illegitimate activity on its site it might be in breach of the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008.

As for new clause 12, when there are concerns about the secondary ticketing market the first port of call should be for the industry to source a solution. Some of the larger event organisers, as has already been mentioned, already have refund procedures in place and we welcome that. However others, including smaller players, have chosen not to, for very good commercial reasons in many cases.

The hon. Member for Shipley (Philip Davies) highlighted the importance of industry-led action, and we agree with that. The hon. Member for Walthamstow (Stella Creasy) and a number of other Members mentioned the rugby world cup in 2015, and that is a great example of industry-led action. The organisers’ 10-point plan lists many of the actions suggested by the hon. Member for Shipley, including the release of tickets in batches and the late issue of tickets.

All that is being industry-led. I hope that what I have said has reassured members of the all-party group that we share the concerns that they have highlighted and that we have looked carefully at the best way to take on board the group’s recommendations to try to protect consumers. I hope that they are reassured by what I have explained about the information on the website and in the guidance.

On halal meat—a completely different subject—we want people to have the information that they need to make informed choices about the food that they buy. Many retailers or restaurants and fast food outlets already voluntarily provide information on whether meat is halal or kosher. As we have seen from the debate today, this is a complex and sensitive area. There is no single clear definition of halal meat. The majority of halal meat produced in this country comes from animals that are stunned before slaughter, whereas kosher meat all comes from unstunned animals. That is just part of what consumers want to know, as we have heard in the debate today. We already have powers under the Food Safety Act 1990 to make domestic regulations to introduce a requirement to label with the method of slaughter. However, we do not consider at this stage that regulation is the best approach. Primarily, food businesses should provide consumers with the information that they want and need. If there is to be compulsory labelling, we believe that this would best be done at a European level. That would be best for consumers and also ensure that we do not put our food industry at a competitive disadvantage.

I will not give way, I am afraid. I have no time.

My hon. Friend the Member for Shipley said that there was widespread customer demand for labelling of the kind that has been suggested. An EU study is currently being undertaken on precisely that question, so we are waiting with interest the publication of the study so that we have full information on what consumers want. We will review all our options at that point.

We had a good debate about product safety in Committee and we have discussed it recently in the Chamber. There is already legislation on product safety recalls, which places strict duties on producers and distributors to ensure the safety of products. These regulations also provide trading standards with comprehensive powers to enforce them. As the hon. Member for Foyle (Mark Durkan) said, we need to improve the effectiveness of product recalls. The traceability of products after sale is a real challenge, as he said, but I do not believe that introducing new reporting requirements or a new overarching agency is the right approach. The vast majority of businesses take the safety of their customers very seriously and I believe that the best approach is therefore for us to continue to work with representatives from industry, consumer groups and enforcement agencies to ensure that the system is as effective as possible.

The issue of lettings has also excited people this afternoon. Most letting agents offer a good service. A blanket ban on fees, as new clause 22 proposes, cannot therefore be the answer to tackle a minority of irresponsible agents. In addition, banning fees will not make it cheaper for tenants, because tenants will just end up paying through higher rents rather than upfront fees. The hon. Member for Walthamstow highlighted the example of Scotland. My understanding is that in the first quarter after the change was introduced rents rose significantly in Edinburgh and Aberdeen, and in the year to March rents rose by more in Scotland than in England and in Wales. In fact, the rate of increase in rents was double that in Wales. So it is not quite as simple a picture as the hon. Lady highlighted.

We are already changing the law to require all letting and managing agents to belong to an approved redress scheme, which will give tenants an effective way to make complaints. Last month the Housing Minister approved three redress schemes that all letting and property management agents will be required to join later this year. This will ensure that tenants and leaseholders have a straightforward way of holding their agents to account. The three compulsory schemes, which are the property ombudsman, ombudsman services: property and the property redress scheme, will offer independent investigation of complaints about hidden fees or poor service. Where a complaint is upheld, tenants and leaseholders could get compensation.

We are going further. Today, in a move that ensures a fair deal for landlords and tenants, I am pleased to announce that we will be amending the Bill to require letting agents to publish full details of the fees that they charge. Currently the Advertising Standards Authority requires letting agents only to list charges to the tenant up front in their advertisements. Those letting agents who are found to have imposed hidden charges face little more than being named and shamed on the authority’s website. We want to go further to require all letting agents to publish a full tariff of their fees both on their website and prominently in their offices. Anyone who does not comply with those new rules will face a fine that is a much stricter penalty than currently exists. While every business remains free to set its own fees it has to be transparent, so competition will ensure that letting agents will have to justify those fees to tenants.

Today’s plans add to the work that the Government have already done to offer stronger protections for landlords and tenants in the private rented sector while avoiding excessive regulation, which would force up rents and reduce choice. We intend to review the requirement for greater transparency after 12 months of operation to confirm that it is delivering the expected benefits. If not, the Government will consider whether the proposals need to go further.

We have discussed micro-businesses in an earlier debate, so I will briefly state that we do not support extending the consumer protections in the Bill to smaller businesses. The provisions in the Bill have been designed for consumers, and we cannot and should not assume that they can be applied as successfully to small businesses as they can to consumers. As the Select Committee on Business, Innovation and Skills acknowledged, all business groups that responded to the Government’s 2008 consultation preferred to retain the clarity of the current distinction between business and consumer.

Finally, on Government amendment 14 and Opposition amendment 5, I am happy to change the process from a requirement for the negative to the affirmative procedure, and have tabled a Government amendment to that effect. I therefore hope that the hon. Member for Walthamstow will not press her amendment.

I did not hear the Minister make any remarks about new clause 14, which appeared to have cross-party support. Will the Government support it too?

Given the time restrictions, I shall say that we support the intention behind the new clause but not its wording, as there are a number of problems with it. I am happy to discuss with the hon. Gentleman after the debate the points that he has made to see if there is a way forward. With those remarks, I hope that hon. Members are happy that I have covered all the issues that were raised in the debate.

A number of issues have been raised. I am conscious of the time so I shall be brief and discuss the two new clauses that we want to push to a vote because we are not satisfied with what the Government have said. First, on new clause 22, which deals with letting fees, the Government should realise that it is not a small minority of letting agents charging fees. Indeed, good landlords do not want to lose tenants who cannot afford those fees.

The hon. Member for St Albans (Mrs Main) was disrespectful about the idea that tweeting in the Chamber was a good idea. Let me tell her that in the past hour we have had an example of a fee of £1,300 to change the names of two tenants on a tenancy agreement. Those are the sorts of fees that we are talking about. Shelter disputes the evidence that the Minister gave about there being no impact on rent inflation in Scotland since the measure was introduced. Members have to make a decision about whether they are on the side of the consumer or on the side of business. We are firmly of the view that we need to be on the side of the consumer in this instance in changing the way in which the rental market works. Rental fees are anti-competitive, and there is a conflict between who acts for the landlord and who acts for the agent. We need to change that, so we want to push new clause 22 to a vote.

We also want to push new clause 16 to a vote, because it is clear that Members across the House want to see action on ticket touting. New clause 16 puts into practice the amendments that the Government proposed on consumer information and consumer evidence. The Minister discussed the rugby world cup, but it is clear that tickets are already being sold on secondary sites, so the measures that she discussed have not had an impact. We need to make progress on that too.

We are happy to take advice on amendments on businesses, and we are happy to accept the Minister’s assurances about refunds. We are seeking more Government U-turns, but on letting agent fees and ticket touting it is time for action, and that is exactly what the Opposition seek in the amendments. I beg to ask leave to withdraw the motion.

Clause, by leave, withdrawn.

New Clause 13

Goods to be as described: meat products

‘(1) All products containing halal and kosher meat shall be labelled as such at the point of sale by retail and food outlets.

(2) A food outlet is anywhere where food is served to the public.’.—(Philip Davies.)

Brought up, and read the First time.

Question put, That the clause be read a Second time.

Proceedings interrupted (Programme Order, this day).

The Deputy Speaker put forthwith the Questions necessary for the disposal of the business to be concluded at that time (Standing Order No. 83E).

New Clause 16

Secondary ticketing platforms: product and seller information

‘(1) The Secretary of State shall issue guidance to all traders who operate as secondary ticketing platforms on the application of the Consumer Contracts (Information, Cancellation and Additional Charges) Regulations 2013.

(2) Guidance issued under section (1) shall include how secondary ticketing platforms must inform consumers of—

(a) the chosen identity of the seller;

(b) the country of residence of the seller;

(c) information provided by previous buyers on the reliability of the seller and the tickets he has sold;

(d) information on any complaints made against the seller for failing to supply tickets;

(e) information on any complaints made against the seller for supplying fraudulent or invalidated tickets; and

(f) information on all other accounts currently or previously held with the secondary ticketing platform linked to the seller by virtue of personal, financial and contact information provided by them.

(3) Guidance issued under section (1) shall set out how information required under Part 2 of the Consumer Contracts (Information, Cancellation and Additional Charges) Regulations 2013 shall be—

(a) accurate; and

(b) prominently displayed before a buyer is able to purchase.

(4) Guidance issued under section (1) shall set out how secondary ticketing platforms must disclose clearly if the seller of the ticket is—

(a) the secondary ticketing platform themselves;

(b) individuals employed by the secondary ticketing platform;

(c) other companies linked to employees, directors or shareholders of the secondary ticketing platform;

(d) the event organiser or an agent acting on their behalf; or

(e) any other party connected to the event organiser of the event.

(5) Guidance issued under section (1) shall set out the status of tickets as unique goods with distinct characteristics which would affect—

(a) the enjoyment of the good by the consumer;

(b) the use of the good by the consumer; or

(c) the inherent value of the good in questions.

(6) Where a ticket is sold through a secondary ticketing platform, guidance issued under section (1) shall set out how the Consumer Contracts (Information, Cancellation and Additional Charges) Regulations 2013 apply to tickets as unique goods, including—

(a) how sellers must provide all relevant information about the ticket including but not limited to the face value of the ticket and a designated seat or ticket number;

(b) how secondary ticketing platforms will publish all the information about a ticket provided by the seller in a prominent and clear way; and

(c) what sanctions will apply for failing to provide this information under the regulations.’.—(Stella Creasy.)

Brought up, and read the First time.

Question put, That the clause be added to the Bill.

New Clause 22

Prohibition of fees in contracts for services: letting of residential accommodation

‘(1) The provisions in this section apply to a contract for a trader to supply a service in connection with the letting of a residential premises.

(2) Subject to the provisions of this section, any person who demands or accepts payment of any sum of money from a person (“P”) for services in connection with a contract for the letting of residential premises shall be guilty of an offence.

(3) For the purposes of subsection (2), P is any person—

(a) who seeks to enter a contract to let residential accommodation, or

(b) who has a tenancy of, or other right or permission to occupy, residential premises.

(4) For the purposes of subsection (2)—

“letting” shall include any service provided in connection with the advertisement or marketing of residential accommodation or with the grant or renewal of a tenancy;

“services shall —

(a) include, and are not limited to—

(i) the registration of persons seeking accommodation,

(ii) the selection of prospective occupiers, and

(iii) any work associated with the production or completion of written agreements or other relevant documents.

(b) not include credit checks of person seeking accommodation.

(5) Where a person unlawfully demands or accepts payment under this section in the course of his employment, the employer or principal of that person shall also be guilty of an offence.

(6) A person shall not be guilty of an offence under this section by reason of his demanding or accepting payment of rent or a tenancy deposit within the meaning of section 212(8) of the Housing Act 2004.

(7) A person shall not be guilty of an offence under this section by reason of his demanding or accepting a holding deposit.

(8) A “holding deposit” for the purposes of subsection (7) is—

(a) a sum of money demanded of or accepted from a person, in good faith for the purpose of giving priority to that person in relation to the letting of a specific property, which is to be credited towards the tenancy deposit or rent upon the grant of the tenancy of that property, and

(b) not greater than two weeks rent for the accommodation in question.

(9) Costs incurred by persons seeking accommodation for the undertaking of credit checks shall be reimbursed upon the signing of a tenancy agreement.

(10) In this section, any reference to the grant or renewal of a tenancy shall include the grant or renewal or continuance of a lease or licence of, or other right or permission to occupy, residential premises.

(11) In this section “rent” shall include any occupation charge under a licence.’.—(Stella Creasy.)

Brought up.

Question put, That the clause be added to the Bill.

Clause 20

Right to reject

Amendment made: 9, page 11, line 39, at end insert—

‘(13A) A refund under this section must be given without undue delay, and in any event within 14 days beginning with the day on which the trader agrees that the consumer is entitled to a refund.

(13B) If the consumer paid money under the contract, the trader must give the refund using the same means of payment as the consumer used, unless the consumer expressly agrees otherwise.

(13C) The trader must not impose any fee on the consumer in respect of the refund.’.—(Jenny Willott.)

This amendment and amendments 10, 11, 12 and 15 require a trader to provide any refund due to the consumer without undue delay and at the latest within 14 days. They also provide that the refund must be in the same form as the original payment unless the consumer agrees otherwise and that no fee may be charged.

Clause 24

Right to price reduction or final right to reject

Amendment made: 10, page 14, line 42, leave out ‘(11)’ and insert ‘(13C)’.—(Jenny Willott.)

The explanatory statement for amendment 9 also applies to this amendment.

Clause 44

Right to price reduction

Amendment made: 11, page 27, line 45, at end insert—

‘(4) A refund under this section must be given without undue delay, and in any event within 14 days beginning with the day on which the trader agrees that the consumer is entitled to a refund.

(5) The trader must give the refund using the same means of payment as the consumer used to pay for the digital content, unless the consumer expressly agrees otherwise.

(6) The trader must not impose any fee on the consumer in respect of the refund.’.—(Jenny Willott.)

The explanatory statement for amendment 9 also applies to this amendment.

Clause 45

Right to a refund

Amendment made: 12, page 28, line 8, at end insert—

‘(3) A refund must be given without undue delay, and in any event within 14 days beginning with the day on which the trader agrees that the consumer is entitled to a refund.

(4) The trader must give the refund using the same means of payment as the consumer used to pay for the digital content, unless the consumer expressly agrees otherwise.

(5) The trader must not impose any fee on the consumer in respect of the refund.’.—(Jenny Willott.)

The explanatory statement for amendment 9 also applies to this amendment.

Clause 46

Remedy for damage to device or to other digital content

Amendment made: 13, page 28, line 31, at end insert—

‘(4A) A compensation payment under this section must be made without undue delay, and in any event within 14 days beginning with the day on which the trader agrees that the consumer is entitled to the payment.

(4B) The trader must not impose any fee on the consumer in respect of the payment.’.—(Jenny Willott.)

This amendment requires that compensation for damage caused by digital content to other digital content or hardware must be provided by the trader to the consumer without undue delay and at the latest within 14 days. It also provides that no fee can be charged for this payment.

Clause 48

Contracts covered by this Chapter

Amendment made: 14, page 30, line 3, leave out subsection (7) and insert—

‘(7) No order may be made under subsection (5) unless a draft of the statutory instrument containing it has been laid before, and approved by a resolution of, each House of Parliament.’.—(Jenny Willott.)

Clause 48(5) gives the Secretary of State power to remove specified services from the application of Chapter 4 of Part 1 by order made by statutory instrument. This amendment changes the Parliamentary procedure for such statutory instruments from the negative resolution procedure to the affirmative resolution procedure.

Clause 56

Right to price reduction

Amendment made: 15, page 32, line 43, at end insert—

‘(4) A refund under this section must be given without undue delay, and in any event within 14 days beginning with the day on which the trader agrees that the consumer is entitled to a refund.

(5) The trader must give the refund using the same means of payment as the consumer used to pay for the service, unless the consumer expressly agrees otherwise.