Together we can make the government act over legal loan sharking

by Stella Creasy

Campaigns thrive on names and numbers – the more of either, the greater the chance of interest and engagement. History may lionise the lone crusader, but it is only through convincing others to join in that causes actually succeed. If we are to win the arguments for progressive policies, Labour must be capable not only of speaking up for our ideals but building a critical mass of active champions for our actions in every community.

Yet in the competition for the airtime of advocates that now defines modern politics, slick single-issue groups often surpass complicated political messaging. We know many people share our progressive instincts – and that many also baulk at the confusion of institutions we have set up to express them. Even the hardiest Labour enthusiast struggles to set out with conviction the vital differences between the GC, EC, branch and LGC meetings. So to, when supporters make the effort to attend such forums we can let detail on policy close down rather than open up debate. Too often we start by proposing motions for others to be for or against rather than with open enquiry and deliberation to see if we can find mutual terms for collective action.

If we are confident in our passion for social justice, we should embrace and enjoy the process of seeking shared ambitions as well as recognising the value of compromise along the way. This principle is not just about being inclusive; it’s also about being effective. Common cause is the foundation block for asking people to help and ultimately common endeavour. That’s why in the fight to end legal loan sharking, as much effort has been made not just to have the right arguments about legislation, but also to reach out to any and all those who share our concerns.

Consequently the campaign has sought to bring together a broad coalition of MPs, pressure groups, consumer organisations, debt experts and members of the public who may disagree on aspects of how to address the issue but who are willing to talk. Last week Martin Lewis, the money saving expert whose newsletter has five million subscribers, chaired a discussion on the proposals along with Gavin Hayes of Compass, Maurice Glasman of London citizens and Justin Tomlinson, Conservative MP for North Swindon, as well as myself. Also present were representatives from the consumer credit counselling service, the financial inclusion centre, the Better Banking Coalition and the co-operative movement. MPs from all three mainstream parties turned up, along with a large number of people who have become interested in the campaign through Facebook, Twitter, Uncut and other sites.

Anyone in the room could be under no illusions that there are points of disagreement– on the mechanics of how a cap on the cost of borrowing could work; on whether credit unions are the best solution to breaking the stranglehold of payday loan companies on lending to the poorest consumers. But the meeting also confirmed a commitment and willingness by all present to find agreement on legislative outcomes and push for them to be made law.

Affiliated through common cause, the discussion showed it was both possible and worthwhile to build consensus for change.

In practice it means together we have taken up the challenge set by David Willetts in the face of pressure from MPs that “if people come to us with evidence of a problem, we will consider that”. In the last three weeks thousands have submitted evidence to the recent government review on consumer credit and personal insolvency. And whether they came to do this through Martin’s list, Compass, the Movement for Change38 Degrees or Facebook, each has played a key part in making sure the government knows there is a throng of support for intervention in the payday and doorstep lending markets.

However long it takes officials at BIS to wade through the evidence campaigners have provided, we will also continue to match the push for legislation with work in the communities these problems bite the hardest. In the coming weeks, many of us will also be leafleting outside our local high street legal loan sharks to make sure potential customers are aware of the alternatives on offer in their area and the availability of debt advice. This time of year is when these companies make their biggest profits, as many families borrow to pay for Christmas and get caught up in their astronomical interest rates and penalty charges.

If you find this article compelling enough to read to the end, we want to ask for your help. Please write to David Willetts and urge him to keep his promise to act on these submissions – and invite others to do so.

You can contact him on or via David Willetts, department for business, innovation and skills, 1 Victoria Street, London SW1H 0ET.

Stella Creasy is Labour and Co-Operative MP for Walthamstow.

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One Response to “Together we can make the government act over legal loan sharking”

  1. Nicole says:

    Unfortunately, there are lots of lenders who provide extremely high-iterest loans and charge hidden fees. There are also lots of scammers on a lending market and government should act over them. But payday loans are impossible without high interest rates because the lenders take high risk when they lend money to people with bad credit and require minimum information. I think that everything has a right to exist. But instant payday loans online are intended for emergency situations when a person needs cash quickly and has no one to apply to. And no one is forced to use this service – it’s not a secret that interest rates are high and these loans are quite expensive, so it’s not worth to use it if you’re not sure that can pay your loan off.

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