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Volume 687: debated on Tuesday 21 November 2006

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether they will take measures to reduce the burden of United Kingdom consumer debt, currently measured at 17.4 per cent of gross domestic product, in comparison with 3.4 per cent in Italy, 7.5 per cent in Germany and 8.5 per cent in France. [HL45]

What is important is not the percentage as such but the ability of consumers to manage their individual debt levels. The great majority of consumers are able to manage their borrowing without getting into difficulty. However, the DTI is very concerned with the burden that those suffering over-indebtedness can suffer. We are therefore investing £45 million in face-to-face debt advice that will result in around 450 new advisers providing help to tens of thousands of the over-indebted. We are also providing National Debtline with Elm to help it expand its freephone capacity so that by the end of 2006 it will have a client capacity of 120,000 annually.