I am very concerned that nearly four million children are currently living in poverty and I agree that End Child Poverty's report, 'Feeling the Pinch', raises several important issues, particularly the impact on low-income families of high cost rent-to-own products.
I believe that the continued fall in living standards, growing job insecurity and shrinking public services has put people under increasing strain, and resulted in whole families being held back from the life they have worked towards.
I am aware concerns have been voiced about the powers of the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) to take action against the high interest rates charged in the rent-to-own sector. The FCA launched a consultation on consumer credit in July 2017, considering the circumstances which has resulted in consumers being granted credit which they cannot afford to repay. The FCA expects to publish a policy statement, along with final rules and guidance in 2018. I can assure you I will follow developments on this closely.
There is also an importance of promoting better access to affordable credit, particularly for individuals eligible for Universal Credit (UC). The House of Commons' Treasury Select Committee recently launched an inquiry into household finances, examining the sustainability of household debt and consumer credit, and the effectiveness of financial regulators in monitoring problematic debt. I will follow the outcome of this inquiry, as I am concerned that stagnating incomes have left many families in our constituency and across the country facing large debts.
Furthermore, I believe cuts to social security and work allowances in UC have had a damaging impact on low-income families. The Labour Manifesto at the 2017 General Election pledged to reform and redesign UC and introduce a new Child Poverty Strategy.
I will continue to press for action to tackle poverty and protect low-income families.