On Wednesday 22 February I was pleased to host a roundtable with the banking, credit and debt advice sectors on a statutory breathing space for those in problem debt, as introduced in my private members’ bill.
The aim of the event was to have an open and frank discussion around the draft blueprint for the breathing space. Having the likes of Barclays, RBS, Nationwide and Vanquis Bank based out of local Chatham providing valuable input is important towards finalising a clear and comprehensive plan. I am encouraged by the broad agreement for the proposal and now it is important to hammer out the detail and present this unity to Government ministers as soon as possible.
With more and more people and families struggling with problem debt across England and Wales, I am keen to continue building this momentum and formalise the breathing space support they need. For me personally, much of my work has been around ensuring children can develop in the best possible environment, but within an indebted household this is often not the case. There can be a constant threat of losing the family home, family breakdown, and possibly violence. All of this can lead to them getting into similar difficulties that they carry forward into adulthood, repeating the cycle.
My Families With Children in Debt (Respite) Bill would introduce a statutory period of protection where families are free from additional interest, charges, collections and enforcement action. Debt advice charities say this is essential to give people the stability to get their finances back on track without fear of spiralling debts. At the end of the day, this proposal will lead to a win-win for both the debtor and creditor in that it can prevent insolvency and ensure the creditor does not lose out while also giving the individual or family the opportunity to get back on its feet with dignity.
Key parameters for Breathing Space are set out in the Bill: this includes an initial 12-month maximum period of protection; and coverage of key debts including unsecured debts and debts owed to government. The Bill also includes broad regulation-making powers to determine how Breathing Space should work in practice, and since its introduction debt advice agencies have developed a more detailed blueprint that we wish to discuss.
I am hugely grateful for the support received for the Bill up and a down the country, including many colleagues in both houses of parliament and I am looking forward to bringing it to the House of Commons in the coming weeks.