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Lord Bird’s Creditworthiness Assessment Bill progresses after second reading

The proposed legislation will now move on to a hearing of the whole House after several peers from across the political spectrum gave the proposal their backing in the debate

John Bird

Big Issue founder Lord John Bird’s Creditworthiness Assessment Bill –­ the plan to make rental payments a compulsory part of a credit score – will now progress to a Committee of the whole House after being given a second reading.

The private member’s bill was backed by several peers from across the political spectrum during the debate but government minister Lord Bates raised several opposing points, calling for a ‘market-based solution’ during the debate on Friday.

The Big Issue’s rental exchange scheme, run in collaboration with credit reference agency Experian, helps to build up a positive credit file for tenants based on this idea – and has already seen more than one million social housing tenants sign up to the initiative.

This will mean fairer access to more affordable credit, for things as simple – but as vital – as white goods, so borrowers won’t be forced towards rapacious lenders.

The Big Issue has proved that there are millions of people there who have been disenfranchised and that has been unhealthy for the market

The scheme has led to a move to help many more renters, not just those in social housing.

Speaking at the House of Lords, crossbench peer Lord Bird said: “If you do think about a market-based solution which is obviously something that the Conservative government would love to promote at the moment there is a bar on operating in the market in a healthy way.

“There are probably millions of people there that the lenders would love to lend to but because they don’t have the information, they don’t have the keys to the door.

“And, actually, a true market-based solution would be tenants showing how reliable they are through the data you have collected over the years by paying your rent.”

However, Lord Bates insisted that the government pointed towards the £2m fintech competition revealed by Philip Hammond in Wednesday’s Autumn Budget as a possible solution.

The Treasury spokesperson also revealed that the government was wary of imposing more legislation that will affect landlords in the wake of the abolition of letting agent fees last year.

Any additional operating costs will also be passed on the consumer, Lord Bates warned.

Baroness Olly Grender gave her support to the bill on behalf of the Liberal Democrats while pointing to her work in the abolition of letting agent fees as evidence that Lord Bird can succeed, as she did, in pushing a bill through parliament.

Conservative Baroness Judith Wilcox as well as Labour pair Baroness Glenys Thornton and Lord Bryan Davies of Oldham also spoke in favour of the proposal – which has the Labour party’s backing – praising the “strong consensus for the bill” in a bid to change how “society stacks the cards against the poor”.

Lord Bird added: “The bill opens up the possibilities of enfranchising a whole group of people who locked out of the system, and fintech answer goes towards that idea.

“But the fintech solution will come along irrespective of us and The Big Issue has proved that there are millions of people there who have been disenfranchised and that has been unhealthy for the market.”

The proposed legislation was hailed as ‘genius’ during an earlier House of Commons petitions committee debate on October 23. The debate, on taking into account rental data during mortgage applications, was triggered by Plymouth dad Jamie Pogson’s 147,307-signature petition on the subject.

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The Big Issue has given more than £1 million support to Big Issue vendors struggling due to the lockdown restrictions. To mark the significant milestone, we have published an impact report, documenting the seismic shift the organisation has undergone in the past 12 months.

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