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Money Advice Service

Volume 760: debated on Thursday 12 March 2015

Question for Short Debate

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what action they will take to implement the report on the Money Advice Service undertaken by Christine Farnish.

My Lords, I thank those who have signed up to speak in this debate. We may be few in number but I know that this will be a high-quality debate. I declare my interest as the retiring chair of the charity StepChange and as a commissioner on the Financial Inclusion Commission, which reported yesterday. I commend its report as a much needed opportunity for all parties to refocus on the issue of financial inclusion, which is an egregious block on too many of our citizens fully participating in society.

When I applied for this QSD some considerable time ago, I was reasonably confident that the Farnish report would have been published by now. However, it is a case of being in “Hamlet” without the prince, or perhaps one of these dark Nordic noir detective stories— while I do not watch them, I do have the jersey. Where is the Farnish review? Can the Minister tell us what is happening and whether this Government will, in fact, ever publish the report? As I am sure he is aware, there have been rumours of many prospective publication dates, each of which has subsequently passed without action. Indeed, the Minister himself told me last week that it would definitely be available for this debate. All this is very surprising, given that it is supposed to be an independent report, and we know that the Government received the report before the end of 2014, in line with the published terms of reference. So why the delay?

Given the role that the MAS has until now assumed for itself, this delay is bad for the sectors with which it interacts such as the free debt advice sector. As I hope the Government realise, it is particularly bad for the board and staff of the Money Advice Service itself. Why should well meaning, hard-working and committed people endure prolonged uncertainty over the future of their organisation and their jobs? It is already evident that the organisation is thoroughly demoralised and in danger of haemorrhaging staff. This is not a good situation and it must be resolved in short order. The hold-up has already delayed publication of the MAS’s business plan for the financial year 2015-16, which starts in about three weeks’ time, and the next steps on its UK financial capability strategy. This can be in nobody’s interest.

It is worth recalling that the review was prompted by the Treasury Select Committee in the other place. Its report has been included in the Library’s helpful briefing note for this debate. In publishing its report of December 2013, it said:

“The Money Advice Service is not currently fit for purpose. It is far from clear that it has adopted the right strategy or even that it is performing its correct role. In finalising this report, the Committee considered carefully whether to recommend that the MAS be scrapped completely … The review must assess whether the MAS should continue to exist and, if so, how it can overcome the serious problems laid bare in this report. Its findings should be available for scrutiny by the Treasury Committee and others by the summer of 2014. Only then can a credible, informed decision on the future of the MAS be made”.

The committee set quite a high hurdle. Presumably the committee may also have views on the delay that has occurred since that report.

I assume that in the real world what will happen is that, after the Budget, the Treasury will formally respond to the Treasury Select Committee report, basing its comments on the Farnish review and submissions from the MAS, FCA and perhaps others, and that is when we will see the report. I would be grateful if the Minister could confirm this. Whatever happens, there is now little time left in this Parliament for the Treasury Select Committee to give proper consideration to this issue and we may have to accept that it will drag into the next Parliament. This does not seem appropriate.

Turning to the review itself, I have high hopes for the report. I hope that Christine Farnish, who is well respected in the sector, has not been constrained about answering the fundamental questions raised by the Treasury Select Committee about the very existence of the Money Advice Service. If she recommends that MAS should survive, I hope that she will set out clearly what its role should be in both the money and debt advice spaces.

In my view, for what it is worth, I can see a place for the retention of a slimmed-down Money Advice Service but only if its role changes. It should not set out to do what others are doing better. As I have consistently argued in this House, it should complement but not duplicate the work of charities and not-for-profit agencies which work so effectively in providing debt solutions and money advice. Secondly, MAS cannot and should not be a quasi-regulatory body, as only one body can do that—the Financial Conduct Authority, which is already having a significant impact on this sector. No group can be expected to operate to two regulators and that would not be sustainable. Albeit in a slimmed-down form, MAS could be given a new role—perhaps a strategic functionality focusing on creating and influencing financial services policy and as a consumer champion, complementing and supporting the excellent work already done by the FCA’s consumer panel.

In the rest of my contribution I simply wish to set out what all of us in this sector should do to develop a new policy on problem debt. We need to recognise that personal debt has a macroeconomic impact. Recent research carried out by StepChange has shown that problem debt imposes significant costs on our economy —it estimates about £8.3 billion per annum—most of which comes from job loss and low productivity from people struggling with their debts. It also includes the costs of rehousing people, mental health costs, the costs of relationship breakdown and other matters. These are real and effective drags on the proper work that could be done to grow the economy and restore it to full health. Action needs to be taken.

We also need to do more than just recognise the problem. Savings are a recurrent issue with people who have problem debt. New research that my charity carried out recently showed that about 500,000 households would have been able to avoid problem debt if they had had £1,000 saved. Low-income households, in particular, would see their chances of falling into debt reduced if they could put aside rainy-day savings. Low-income families are not saving because the incentives contained in the main savings policies are not relevant to them, based as they are on tax relief. They do not mean much if you do not pay much or any tax. It is also hard for people with tight incomes to make positive choices to save when they have more immediate concerns, such as putting food on the table.

We need to improve credit products available to low-income families so that they do not rely on high-cost forms of credit such as payday loans. People need to be able to spread the costs of high-cost items such as boilers, fridges and school uniforms, and they need products that are not going to hurt them. There is a real problem developing in the rent-to-buy market, an issue touched on in recent debates in this House. We need to think harder about what will provide the low-interest forms of borrowing that are necessary to avoid that.

People with unmanageable debt are not feckless, and need support if they are going to seek advice and commit to working out a resolution of their problems. My charity is calling for statutory protection against interest, charges, collection charges and enforcement action when people get structured help to repay their debts. This approach is modelled on the excellent Scottish system, the debt arrangement scheme, which is an obvious, low-cost, high-impact solution that gives people control, rewards responsibility, saves creditors the cost of pursuit and collection and gets them a predictable rate of repayment.

Fourthly, we need to ensure that insolvency solutions are fit for purpose. The consumer credit market has changed dramatically in the almost 30 years since the principal parts of our insolvency system were introduced. As the credit market has changed, so too has the nature of problem debt in the UK and the profile of people who find themselves in difficulty. However, our insolvency options have been updated only in piecemeal ways, leaving gaps in protection and coverage, prohibitive fees and a lack of flexibility around changing circumstances.

Finally, debt advice is underfunded across the UK. There are probably around 3 million people who need it, barely half of whom are getting it. We think that there is a need to go back and make an ambitious but realistic call on all businesses that create problem debt but currently do not make fair contributions. Debt advice on its own is not enough. We need to ensure that those who have decided to seek debt advice are quickly and efficiently offered solutions that will get them into a situation in which they can pay off their debts and be allowed to rebuild their relationship with credit. Ideally—it is something that we aim to do—that process should educate them so that they can manage their finances better in future.

The Farnish report is an important step in the progress we need to make on reshaping the money advice and debt solutions that should be available as we move forward in the 21st century. I have tried to outline some thoughts about what should happen next but, of course, one essential first step might be to have a proper debate about the report, when it is eventually published. “Hamlet” without a prince is not much of a play, and one could not even put on one’s jersey to watch a noir thriller with no plot resolution. I cast the noble Lord, Lord Newby, in a key role in this small masque and look forward to hearing how the story will end.

My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Stevenson of Balmacara, for securing this debate, and I congratulate him on his appointment as a financial inclusion commissioner. I must also declare an interest, as it is my pleasure to serve as president of the Money Advice Trust, the charity that runs National Debtline and Business Debtline. Some of the trust’s excellent work is funded, directly or indirectly, by the Money Advice Service.

As a strong supporter of free debt advice, I have been awaiting the outcome of the Farnish review with great interest and I, too, would welcome some clarity from the Minister on when the review and the Government’s response will be published. We might have had a much longer speakers list for the debate today if the review had already been in the public domain, and I regret that this is not the case.

It would be surprising if the review did not make a strong case for free debt advice and the benefits that it brings to debtors, creditors and society as a whole. This free advice is currently available through a whole range of channels. National Debtline and Business Debtline offer telephone and online advice, as does StepChange. An excellent face-to-face service is also available from local citizens advice bureaux and other locally based charities. The case for the value of free debt advice is clear—and “free”, of course, is the operative word here.

There is of course a large commercial debt management industry that charges for debt advice and debt management services. The bottom line is that these fee-charging companies are charging their clients high fees for a service that is available free from debt charities, which can be trusted to give the best, independent advice for each individual case. I hope that the Farnish review not only makes the case for independent, free advice but places this in the context of the need to promote free services over and above those of the fee-paying debt management companies to which all too many consumers currently turn.

The Money Advice Service also plays an important role in the co-ordination of debt advice, and I hope that the Farnish review will make the case that more consumers would benefit from telephone and online advice. I would certainly welcome this shift, but I must emphasise that this would not be to detract from the work of face-to-face advisers: far from it. A shift towards telephone and online advice would, in my view, help to preserve face-to-face advice for those who really need it.

While there is a useful role for the Money Advice Service to play in that level of co-ordination in the debt advice sector, we should also recognise the close partnership working that is already under way, in particular between the Money Advice Trust, Citizens Advice and StepChange. This partnership working increasingly extends to other organisations outside the debt advice space in recognition of the need for these services to be available to people in financial difficulty at the point of need in a wide range of venues and situations.

The Money Advice Trust, for example, is currently working with the Church of England to develop a resource to help parishioners raise awareness of free debt advice in their communities and to signpost these services where appropriate. We have also embarked upon an innovative partnership with Turn2us to link online debt and benefits advice through its “My Money Steps” tool, and we are exploring the potential for working more closely with food banks to make sure that people in financial difficulty receive the advice they need. We need to encourage the development of these new ways of working, and further innovations in this sector.

Money Advice Service research in 2013 showed that 8.8 million people in the UK are over-indebted. More recent trends show that consumer credit lending is expanding significantly, and the Office for Budget Responsibility predicts that the UK’s household debt to income ratio, which as I understand it is an aggregate measure of how much debt households have taken on relative to their incomes, is set to rise from 146% to 184% by 2020. This is significantly higher than its pre-crisis peak of 169% in 2008.

Furthermore, while expectations of a rise in interest rates continue to recede further into the future, we must none the less consider the impact on households with mortgages when it does eventually occur. Indeed, research last year by the Money Advice Trust and the Building Societies Association showed that 27% of mortgage payers are likely to fall into financial difficulty when interest rates rise. Many will fall into unmanageable debt as a result. Taking all these factors into account, it is clear that demand for debt advice is likely to rise in the future.

Noble Lords will be aware that the question of the appropriate level and allocation of the Money Advice Service’s budget is a central issue that the review has sought to address. The level of expenditure on some areas of the service’s work has of course met with controversy in the past. But if savings in some areas are to be made as a result of the review, I would strongly urge that consideration be given to a corresponding increase in the funding that is available to the service, but specifically for commissioning free debt advice services. Given the clear indications of future rising demand that I have described, an increase in funding for front-line free debt advice services would be a very welcome outcome of the review.

My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Stevenson, for initiating this timely and important debate on a subject which is affecting all parts of society, sometimes with devastating social effects. While the Farnish review has yet to be published, there is no doubt that attitudes to finance and debt in the UK are a matter of real concern. It is not always easy to get precise data on what exactly is going on, but there is evidence that levels of personal debt are continuing to rise, with reports this January of new consumer debt climbing to heights that have not been reached for nearly seven years. The £1.25 billion net increase in unsecured borrowing seen in November 2014 was the third month out of five when consumers had taken on more than £1 billion of new debt.

Over recent decades, many people have come to presume that it is normal to live with debt, in some cases with considerable levels of debt. Anecdotal reports from Citizens Advice centres and other organisations working in debt advice describe the terrible problems caused for some individuals and their families. This is a profound societal change, which has developed over a number of years under different Governments and could lead us into very serious problems in the future if the trends cannot be reversed.

The problems of indebtedness are clearly too deeply rooted to be swept away by the very welcome improvements in the UK’s economy over recent months. However, it is important to keep a close eye on these trends and the extent of the rise in personal debt, not just because of those individuals I have already mentioned but because it could possibly threaten financial stability in our economy. I wonder whether the Minister could tell us what assessment Her Majesty’s Government have made of the rising levels of personal debt and, in particular, whether they have any views about the level at which such personal debt could threaten the economy? At what point does that become something of significance for everyone?

If we are to achieve sustained attitudinal change towards personal debt we need to work in the coalitions that my noble colleagues have already spoken about, made up of government, the third sector and civil society institutions. A key part of this partnership must be to improve the availability, quality and consistency of debt advice in this country. For this reason, the Church of England is keen to support the work of the Money Advice Service and other debt organisations. We are concerned that the Money Advice Service should target its work and its resources be deployed as effectively as possible. With the demand for debt advice expected to double over the next five years, the challenges facing the sector are huge.

Locally, many churches are actively involved in helping people affected by debt. There are 270 debt centres affiliated to Christians Against Poverty; I have recently been closely in touch with one of them in Christ Church in Ware, in Hertfordshire. About 140 church-based centres are supported by Community Money Advice. Another church in my diocese, in Bedford, runs Money Advice at St Andrew’s, a free, confidential service financed by church members and used by a large number of people. Many other churches provide informal help to those who are struggling with their finances.

Nationally, the Archbishop’s task group is promoting the use of responsible credit and saving to ensure that there are real alternatives to payday loans and other forms of high-cost credit that push many people into problem debt. We are also very pleased to be working with the Money Advice Trust, to which my noble friend Lady Coussins has just referred, the charity that runs National Debtline, to develop a debt awareness and signposting resource. This will better enable congregation members and volunteers to raise awareness of free debt advice and help those in financial difficulty get the advice and support that they need.

As well as helping those struggling under the burden of debt, we need to work to move our society away from the current situation in which indebtedness is increasingly seen as the norm. We need to find ways of changing attitudes to credit and saving for the long term. I therefore want to focus my remaining remarks on financial education, which is equally important but still an underfunded element of the Money Advice Service’s financial capability strategy. I welcome the strategy’s emphasis on improving the financial capability of children and young people, and agree with its recommendation that the Government should consider the case for adding financial education to the primary school curriculum in England.

Young people today grow up in an increasingly complex world, requiring them to make difficult choices that will often have a significant impact on their future. They live in a culture that is heavily influenced by consumerism, and even very young children are being targeted by commercial companies because of their “pester power” and very real spending power. Online shopping, mobile phone contracts, tuition fees and the accessibility of credit cards mean that many young people are making financial decisions and are exposed to debt at a very young age. Millions of children are directly affected by overindebtedness as their parents struggle to keep up with their bills and credit commitments. Teaching our young people financial responsibility is vital.

At the same time, evidence from national and international surveys shows that the younger generation has lower levels of financial capability than their parents. If we are to enable future generations of young people to manage their finances well, children must be given high-quality financial education in school so that they can make informed choices and take responsibility for their actions. Sadly, that imperative is not yet adequately reflected in our education system. Although 94% of teachers and 79% of parents think that it is important for young children to learn about money and financial matters at school, only about one-third of primary schools teach financial education, and only 5% of parents think that young people are leaving school with the financial skills and knowledge that they need to manage their finances.

That is why the Church of England is working with the Personal Finance Education Group, now part of Young Enterprise, to establish an effective national financial education programme for primary schools centred on school-based savings clubs. Building on the evidence set out in the financial capability strategy and elsewhere, we want to give children the opportunity to learn about money at a much younger age, focusing on developing good attitudes and habits towards money, including practical experience of managing their own money. We want to involve parents and the wider community in children’s financial education, so that positive messages about money are being reinforced from a range of different sources. We are very grateful to this Government for funding the pilot of the LifeSavers programme, starting in Bradford, Nottinghamshire and south-east London, and we hope that it will be the beginning of a stronger and long-term commitment to financial education in this country.

Finally, one practical thing that we can do is to encourage take-up of credit unions. I am glad that the St Albans credit union, of which I am a member, not only helps many adults who need advice and help but pays regular visits to one of our local schools to encourage saving. I hope that we can find ways to build on such partnerships to increase financial literacy and responsibility. To that end, the review by the Money Advice Service is vital to ensure that we are doing all that we can to improve the situation for both this generation and those to come.

My Lords, the Minister replying to this debate and I share a common problem: the report has not been published. The difference between us is that it is his Government’s fault that we are debating a report that we anticipated would have been published long since. As my noble friend Lord Stevenson said in introducing the debate, the report looks as though it will join the long list of challenges that will await the May election and will be passed on to the next Administration—a role we will, of course, fulfil with enthusiasm.

The other difficulty in dealing with the report is that comments made on it vary considerably. It is clear that some consider that the Money Advice Service has an important role to play in the significant area of dealing with personal debt and that its performance passes muster. However, there are indications of failure elsewhere which have led to the calamitous situation of the collapse of morale in the organisation. There are even suggestions that the staff may be cut by as much as one half and the budget reduced by nearly 40%.

This is a grim situation to confront an organisation that clearly has a role to play. The Treasury Select Committee, which also was dealing with partial information before the report was published, said in a forthright manner that it did not consider the Money Advice Service fit for purpose. It is not surprising, therefore, that there is consternation all round on the role that the organisation should play in the future, if at all.

I am very grateful to my noble friend Lord Stevenson for having identified and highlighted this issue against a background where, as the right reverend Prelate, joined by the noble Baroness, Lady Coussins, emphasised, personal debt is a major issue for our society. We are approaching the record levels of personal debt that preceded the great crash. One would have thought that the Government might address themselves to a report that has significant things to say about an agency that is meant to help people in these circumstances, yet they have merely rendered its future uncertain.

Therefore, I hope that the Minister will today be able to give some reassurances. One matter on which we would certainly want some reassurance from the Administration is the clear criticism in the report of the service’s potential role in relation to pensions advice. That issue will imminently be upon us in substantial numbers. People who are at the age at which they can take decisions about cashing in elements of their pension for a cash pot will need dispassionate, objective advice. The MAS would almost certainly be a body to which some would look, yet there are references to its lack of capacity for handling advice in this area.

We need these issues cleared up. I agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Coussins, that this debate would have had a very long list of speakers today if we had had the report before us and were able to consider in full how we expect people to be advised and how institutions will respond in giving dispassionate, accurate advice to so many of our people in need. As the right reverend Prelate mentioned, the church, among other organisations, is acutely aware of the pressure of debt. That pressure is shown in the recourse that people have to food banks. The right reverend Prelate came very close to home when he mentioned Christ Church in Ware, as I live only four miles away from the church and know the excellent work that it does in this area.

However, we all recognise that such levels of support do not necessarily provide 100% coverage—far from it. All those organisations have limited resources, so we want the fullest contribution from those who have the requisite level of expertise and we want the Government to insist on priority for this area. As my noble friend Lord Stevenson made abundantly clear—I do not need to repeat many of the points he made—the Government’s delay and hesitation over the publication of the report, far from tackling the issue, merely creates uncertainty where we need certainty for a rather desperate public.

My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Stevenson, for raising this important issue. As outgoing chair of StepChange, he is particularly well placed to do that. As part of my preparation for today’s debate, I looked at the StepChange website and was very impressed at the ease with which I would be able to use it if I needed debt advice. However, I am also very aware, as the noble Baroness, Lady Coussins, pointed out, that many people want face-to-face advice. I will turn later to telephone and online advice. The work that Citizens Advice and the Money Advice Trust do in terms of debt advice is most impressive.

The review that is the subject of today’s debate was established by the Government to ensure that consumers’ needs were being adequately met. It was charged with two things: first, assessing how effectively and efficiently the Money Advice Service is meeting the need for consumer education and advice; and, secondly, recommending any changes to MAS’s role, approach and delivery models that would enable it better to meet this need. The review was led by Christine Farnish and I would like to take this opportunity to thank her and her team for all of their efforts.

The review explores how MAS can improve the quality, reach and cost effectiveness of the debt advice it funds. It also raises important questions about how MAS ensures consumers have access to good quality and trustworthy tools and information to help them manage their money and understand financial products, including with regard to the strategic role that MAS should seek to play in influencing others who provide information and advice to consumers.

As the noble Lord pointed out, the Government have received the report and are currently considering it. They have decided, sensibly I think, that they will publish their response when they publish the report. They are well along the way to being able to do that, although I am sorry that they were unable to do it in time for today. They will publish the report and their response in the coming weeks.

The noble Lord, Lord Stevenson, asked about the Government’s response more generally to the TSC report but HMT has already responded to this report in the form of a letter from the former FST, Sajid Javid, which was published. This response accepted the central recommendation, which was to undertake an independent review. The noble Lord also raised the spectre of the review recommending the abolition of MAS. The Government asked Christine Farnish to look at how MAS could improve its work rather than whether it should be abolished. The Government believe that MAS has important ongoing functions to play in helping individuals improve their financial confidence and resilience.

On the broad approach which the Government have taken in this area, we believe that everyone, regardless of circumstance, should have access to money and debt advice. That is crucial because helping individuals to improve their financial confidence and resilience also gives wider social and economic benefits and helps to ensure that retail financial markets are well functioning and competitive.

MAS was set up to give people the support they need to manage their money well. Since 2012, it has also had a statutory responsibility for co-ordinating the provision of debt advice. It is now the largest single funder of free debt advice in the UK and has made significant progress in improving the effectiveness and efficiency of debt advice since being given these responsibilities by government. Giving MAS statutory responsibility for debt advice, funding and co-ordination has put the funding arrangements for free debt advice on a far more sustainable footing. From the coming financial year, this funding base will expand to include firms authorised by the FCA for consumer credit activities, including payday lenders. The Government are keen to see the funding base broaden further to reflect that debt problems are caused by a number of factors, including falling behind on bills as well as falling behind on repayments.

In ensuring debt advice is able to reach as many people as possible, the Government recognise the importance of consumers being able to access advice through the most appropriate channel, be it online, face-to-face or by telephone. The noble Baroness, Lady Coussins, raised an interesting point in this respect. From the Government’s point of view, the more that people can access debt advice and, indeed, advice more generally, online and by phone is welcome for two reasons. First, it is easier for them because there is more flexibility about how they do it, and secondly, it is better for the Government in many ways because people accessing advice online is much more cost-effective. If everybody were doing that instead of needing face-to-face advice, it would save the Government a lot of money, which they are always keen to do. Having looked at the website, the challenge is that there will be many people who have pretty chaotic financial circumstances and will need face-to-face advice to get to the end point. We are offering three strands of advice—online, telephone and face-to-face—on pension flexibility that we are about to introduce and it will be interesting to see how that breaks down. There we are giving people an equal opportunity to use any of those strands and that might help inform how we look at providing debt advice and other forms of advice. One of the challenges we have at the moment is trying to work out what that split is going to be, but until we start, we do not know.

The Government also believe it is essential that the right options and incentives are available to consumers to encourage them to deal with their debts. For example, the Government share the interest in the idea of giving consumers in debt repayment plans a breathing space from interest and charges and are actively considering what further steps might be taken in this area.

As well as being able and encouraged to access free debt advice, consumers must have the assurance that the organisation and advisers they engage with are operating to the highest standards. That is why we agreed with not-for-profit debt advisers that they should be regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority and be held to the same conduct standards as for debt management firms in order to maintain the confidence of clients. However, the Government have also ensured that the new FCA regulatory regime subjects not-for-profit debt advice providers to proportionate regulatory burdens, including placing them in the lower cost limited permission regime, to encourage the supply of free debt advice that meets consumers’ needs.

The noble Lord, Lord Stevenson, raised the importance of encouraging people to have rainy-day savings. I agree with him on that. One of the challenges is to ensure that a range of products is easily available for people, particularly those on low incomes. We are seeing two big developments. One is credit unions. We are now in the happy position of there being almost a bidding war between the political parties about how many more million members they want credit unions to have by 2020, which is very healthy for credit unions. Credit unions are expanding and, more importantly, are expanding the range of products they have available, not least so that young people who want to be able to do the maximum number of financial transactions online or on their phone will increasingly be able to do that via credit unions. Secondly, the main banks’ agreement last December about a basic bank account with more features than was previously the case is another helpful way to get more people into a position where it is easier for them to save.

The noble Baroness, Lady Coussins, and the right reverend Prelate raised the big issue of the appropriate level of debt. They share a concern that personal debt is now rising to pre-crisis levels or going beyond it. What we have seen, as the right reverend Prelate said, is a complete change in attitude towards debt from that of my parents’ generation, who grew up in an environment where the Great Depression meant that people were in severe financial difficulties because there was not always a very effective state safety net and there was therefore a huge incentive for people on modest means to save modest amounts for a rainy day—and they did. That incentive has gone, to a certain extent. My children and their friends have a completely different view of debt from the one I have, and a very, very different view from that of my parents. How we strike a balance is a big challenge.

Working in schools is definitely very important, as the right reverend Prelate said. This Government have introduced financial literacy into the secondary curriculum but, as he says, primary schools are potentially—and actually—more important. That is why the work that is just starting, such as LifeSavers, is very important. It is also important not just that we get credit unions into schools but that we encourage building societies and banks to go into schools and get children saving at a young age. If you get them saving in a structured way at a very young age, they are much more likely to save later on.

I am out of time. This is a very important issue. The report and the Government’s response will be published shortly. We will have the opportunity to debate it then. In the mean time, I am very grateful to the noble Lord for raising the issue today.