Conservative MP Justine Greening has given The Big Issue founder John Bird’s Creditworthiness Assessment Bill a start on its journey through the House of Commons.
Greening backed the bill today, which aims to make it a requirement for credit providers to take into account rental and council tax payment history, sponsoring the proposed legislation and introducing it to the Commons in its first reading.
The bill has received cross-party backing from every party in the Commons with co-sponsors including Labour’s John McDonnell, Liberal Democrat Leader Sir Vince Cable and his Green Party counterpart Caroline Lucas. The SNP’s Kirsty Blackman, DUP’s Sammy Wilson, Liz Saville Roberts of Plaid Cymru and Labour’s Jonathan Reynolds have also given their support to the bill.
The next step for the proposed legislation, which is at the halfway point of its journey on to the statute book after passing through the House of Lords with no amendments, is the second reading which is pencilled in for October 26.
In total, more than 92,000 people have sold The Big Issue since 1991 to help themselves work their way out of poverty – more than could fit into Wembley Stadium.
Speaking ahead of the first reading, Greening said: “This is an important piece of legislation because we need to make sure there is a level playing field in this country. There are 15 million adults in this country renting in addition to those who own their home and pay a mortgage. At the moment, rental payments don’t count like mortgage payments – that’s wrong. This means that some of the poorest people in the country end up paying the most for credit services. We have to get this changed and legislation is the best way of doing that.
“First of all we have got cross-party support, which is really helpful. MPs are really behind this bill and we all know why it’s important that things change. Secondly I’m going to sitting down with Treasury ministers and, of course, Lord Bird. This is a simple change but it can have a really big impact at the end of the day.”
Crossbench peer Lord Bird said: “With rising levels of indebtedness, there is an urgent need to democratise access to affordable credit. My bill, now sponsored in the Commons by social mobility champion, Justine Greening, is central to this work.
“Fulfilling our shared mission of equalising access to lower-cost credit will require tenants, landlords, social housing providers, credit reference agencies and lenders marching in lockstep behind my Bill. I call on the Government to lead this charge by making time for Justine to lead the Bill through its remaining stages.”
Shadow Chancellor, John McDonnell MP said: “This bill addresses significant issues about widening access to mainstream credit for low-income people, who are often forced to take out high-cost loans that lead to worsening debt levels and a cycle of poverty.”
At present, Britain’s 14.8 million renters are discriminated against when it comes to access to credit as rent payments aren’t recorded or recognised in the same way as mortgage payments. This means some of the poorest are paying the most for credit services, insurance, white goods, utilities and mobile phones.
Lord Bird’s bill will change this by requiring credit service providers to take rental and council tax payment history data into account when assessing a borrower’s creditworthiness. It will do so via a new rule from the Financial Conduct Authority, and only when the data is shared by a tenant.
Image: Louise Schiefer