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Household Debt

Volume 636: debated on Tuesday 27 February 2018

The Government are taking a proactive approach to support borrowers, to aid people to manage their money well, and to help those in problem debt. We reformed the regulation, giving the Financial Conduct Authority considerable regulatory powers, and we are setting up a new single financial guidance body to make it easier for people to get help with money matters.

After seven wasted years, wages are still lower than they were in 2010. Self-employed people are paid less on average than they were a generation ago and 6 million people are earning less than the living wage. Does the Minister share my alarm that too many people have to worry about buying school uniforms, affording a family holiday, or even just paying their rent or mortgage?

The Government recognise that it is very important that we focus on the poorest people in our society. That is why we have increased the national living wage by 4.7%, which will mean a pay rise of £600 for those working full time. We have also increased the personal allowance, frozen fuel duty and increased childcare support to attend to the concerns that the hon. Gentleman has raised.

As part of the Treasury Committee’s inquiry into household finances, we are looking at the problems facing financially vulnerable households. Last week, my Committee colleague, the hon. Member for Bassetlaw (John Mann), and I visited the citizens advice bureau in Nottingham. Caseworkers there told us about the problems caused by banks and companies, but said that the harshest creditor of all is the Government. There is little forbearance for late council tax or welfare overpayments, and bailiffs are often the first port of call, rather than a last resort. Is the Minister concerned by this heavy-handedness? Does he agree that central and local government should lead by example in their treatment of the most financially vulnerable?

I acknowledge the vital work that my right hon. Friend and her Committee are undertaking in this important area. We will be implementing a breathing space as part of the work of the single financial guidance body. The Bill establishing that body is in Committee, as my right hon. Friend will know. I am absolutely determined that we will get this right and listen to best practice across the country. We committed in our manifesto to a six-week breathing space, and we will look carefully at the representations received from across the country.

22. Citizens Advice reports that there are universal credit claimants who are having more than 40% of their standard allowance taken from their monthly payment. There is a 40% cap on repayments to third parties, but that does not appear to cover repayments of advanced or budgeting loans. This is leaving people unable to make ends meet—for example, one person retained just £97. Will the Minister agree to meet his colleagues at the Department for Work and Pensions to ensure that people are not pushed into debt by the Government’s rules? (904049)

Of course I will meet with colleagues in government. I am meeting the relevant Minister as we seek to get this legislation right, and I would be happy to meet the hon. Gentleman as well.