MP backs calls for more powers for loan company regulators

Neil Parish MP backs calls for more powers for regulators to tackle problems caused by payday loan and doorstep lending companies and for consumers to be made fully aware of the consequences of not repaying any loan taken out.Neil Parish (Tiverton and Honiton) (Con): I apologise to the House for not being here at the start of the debate.I congratulate the hon. Member for Walthamstow (Stella Creasy) on her amendment 40, because payday loans and doorstep lending are a huge problem. There are many loan sharks out there and they need to be put back in their boxes. We need serious financial health warnings about their conduct, so that our constituents have some idea of how much they are borrowing and how much they will have to repay. For instance, anyone borrowing £100 at 2000% will have to pay back up to £2,000. That needs to be clearly laid out when people are taking out such loans. As has been pointed out, APRs—annual percentage rates—are not always understood by our constituents. Therefore, if they could see exactly what they had to repay, they would be much less likely to take out such loans.Lorely Burt: The point of payday lending is that it should be for a very short period. Such issues arise when there are innumerable roll-overs, as outlined by the hon. Member for Walthamstow (Stella Creasy). What we hope the industry will do and the review will achieve is either to confine roll-overs to a small number or to abolish them altogether, which would address the problem of the £2,000, which no one in this Chamber wants to see.Neil Parish: The hon. Lady is absolutely right. It needs to be clearly set out when people take out a loan that such sums could be the result if they are unable to repay it. Let us consider the analogy of tobacco. We no longer allow tobacco advertising, and shops cannot even display packets of cigarettes any more, yet people can ring up Wonga on their mobile phone and take out a loan for which they will be charged 4,214% interest.Stella Creasy: Does the hon. Gentleman agree that, although limiting the number of roll-overs is certainly a step in the right direction, there is a risk that it could result in what has happened in America, where such a limit has led to firms paying off someone’s loan and starting a new one in order to circumvent the regulation? We need a regulation with clear, explicit powers to act in relation to these companies in a way that they cannot shrink away from.Neil Parish: That is absolutely right. Many of the people taking out these loans earn less than £15,500 a year and therefore cannot afford the loan in the first place. I have sympathy for their position, but are we really helping them by allowing them to get into the hands of loan sharks, which results in their having to pay back huge amounts of money that they simply do not have?I have made the point before that if financial companies and loan sharks are arguing that they need to charge huge amounts of interest because people are such a high security risk, they should not be lending them the money in the first place. Let us remember the old adage about finance: these companies will lend us an umbrella when the sun is shining, but they will take it away again as soon as it starts to rain. In the circumstances that we are describing, they should never have made the loans in the first place. Citizens Advice and financial advisers often tell us about people who have got themselves into huge amounts of debt, perhaps through no fault of their own.It needs to be made absolutely clear to people what to expect. I am not a great believer in huge amounts of regulation, but I do believe that the consumer should be able to see exactly what they are signing up to at the outset, and be made fully aware of the consequences of their actions. They often do not understand the terms if they are hidden in the small print or expressed as complicated percentages, but if they were told, “You can borrow £100, but if you don’t pay it back on time, you could end up paying £2,000 back”, it might make them sit up and think about exactly what they were borrowing. They might then choose not to do it, or to go to someone who could lend them the money at a better rate.The Government are doing a great deal to increase the use of credit unions, and we need to do much more work on that. Perhaps we should look into ways of financing them. I have a very successful one in my constituency, and we need to build on that. Only a small percentage of people here borrow money from credit unions, unlike in Ireland, where almost 50% of people have access to such loans.David Mowat (Warrington South) (Con): My hon. Friend mentioned Wonga, and he was right to suggest that 4,000% is an absurd rate of interest. Does he have a view on the rate at which interest should be capped for a fortnight’s payday loan?Neil Parish: Yes, I do. Many people in the banking sector would probably disagree, but I believe that anything over 50% is far too high. It is obscene and immoral to allow companies to go on charging vast amounts of interest—I do not care who they are—and that is why we have to take action. I am looking to the Government to do so, not only through legislation but through stating that such companies should clearly set out their rates of interest and the consequences of non-repayment, so that our constituents can take advantage of credit that is competitive and that will not ruin them.| Hansard