Nick Smith MP has called on the Prime Minister to protect vulnerable families who rely on hire purchases to furnish their homes.
This year Citizens’ Advice Bureau in Blaenau Gwent has seen a 59% increase in cases where people are struggling to keep up with payments, with companies such as BrightHouse charging sky-high interest rates.
Mr Smith, who had previously campaigned for controls on payday loan companies, used his opportunity at Prime Ministers’ Questions to ask for a cap on interest rates for hire purchases.
A cap, which is currently being considered by the Financial Conduct Authority as part of their review into the industry, has seen a massive turnaround in payday loan problems.
Although the problem is still on the rise in Blaenau Gwent, where Mr Smith discovered Wonga had loaned more than £1m to customers in one year, nationally the figures have halved since the cap’s introduction.
Speaking after the PMQ session, Mr Smith said people’s need for basic household necessities were being exploited.
“It’s not about the family who overspends at Christmas or lives beyond their means. It’s living week-to-week and needing a fridge or cooker to feed your loved ones”, he said.
“The payments are low but the interest is staggering. People end up paying two or three times as much for the same items and far from helping those in poverty, it helps to keep them in it.
“I’m glad to see more credit checks in the industry and as with payday loans, the need for credit is an important one.
“But more needs to be done to protect people who have no other choice. We’ve seen the success of the interest rates cap with payday loans and the Government and FCA need to seriously consider this option.”
In response, Prime Minister Theresa May acknowledged the problem of high-cost credit and said she would look at the issue further.
CAB in Blaenau Gwent reported 43 cases involving hire purchase problems in the first half of 2016/17, up from 27 in the same time period in 2015/16.
Up to 400,000 people use rent-to-own firms to buy household appliances, paying back high rates of interest.
For example, a Hotpoint Fridge-freezer normally costing £472 would cost £1,170 on a three year repayment plan from BrightHouse.
Nick Smith MP has called on the Prime Minister to protect vulnerable families who rely on hire purchases to furnish their homes. This year Citizens’ Advice Bureau in Blaenau...
Nick Smith MP has warned that the Government are burying their heads in the sand as the Autumn Statement failed to address the impending food price hike.
Nick Smith MP has warned that the Government are burying their heads in the sand as the Autumn Statement failed to address the impending food price hike. Read more
Nick Smith MP has criticised the failures that have led to the electrification of the Cardiff-Swansea line being put under risk (click here)
Nick Smith MP has criticised the failures that have led to the electrification of the Cardiff-Swansea line being put under risk (click here) Read more
Nick Smith MP is backing the push for defibrillators in our communities after showing his support at a Westminster event.
As part of European Restart a Heart Day the Blaenau Gwent MP visited The Oliver King Foundation at their launch event in Parliament.
With local community efforts seeing the life saving kit cropping up in Blaenau Gwent schools and shopping centres, Mr Smith said he was proud to sign up as a Defibrillator Champion for the area.
“It is vital that we take action to prevent any loss of life where one can be saved,” he said.
“It was interesting to hear from the Foundation about how many lives have been saved, including a caretaker at a school who had only received the defibrillator two weeks earlier.
“I will be delighted to work as a Defibrillator Champion, saving lives is a legacy that we can all be proud of.”
The Oliver King Foundation setup following the tragic death of 12-year-old Oliver King from a sudden cardiac arrest, which kills 12 young people every single week. Oliver was winning a swimming race at school.
In 2012 footballer Fabrice Muamba was shocked 16 times by a lifesaving defibrillator in front of the nation.
Early access to a defibrillator is vital. For every minute that passes, chances of survival drop by 10%.
Jake Morrison, Chief Executive of The Oliver King Foundation said: “We are delighted that Nick has signed up as a Defibrillator Champion. It is important that we spread awareness of the vital need for this equipment in our communities.
“Our Members of Parliament have a great platform and connection in their constituencies to spread this message.”
For more information contact The Oliver King Foundation on 01517283470 or email email@example.com
Nick Smith MP is backing the push for defibrillators in our communities after showing his support at a Westminster event. As part of European Restart a Heart Day the Blaenau...
Nick Smith MP is continuing the fight to tackle scammers, cold callers and rogue traders by joining a national campaign to protect vulnerable people.
Mr Smith has joined the Friends Against Scams campaign, an initiative that aims to protect and prevent people from becoming victims of scams by empowering communities.
It comes after Trading Standards revealed 38 Blaenau Gwent victims have lost £10,687 since 2013, with a further 197 potential victims that have been identified by the team in the area.
The Blaenau Gwent MP has previously campaigned against doorstep scams in the community while signing up constituents to schemes that will cut down on junk emails and cold calls.
Now as a SCAMbassador, the Blaenau Gwent MP has joined a cross-party network to protect everyone from scams and the damage they cause.
Each year scams cause between £5bn and £10bn worth of detriment to UK consumers. In addition to the financial impact, scams can have a severe emotional and psychological impact on victims.
Mr Smith said: “Scams often target the most vulnerable people in society but the reality is that anyone can become a victim of scams.
“Scams damage lives and can affect people financially and emotionally so I am glad to have joined the work of the National Trading Standards Scams Team, the Chartered Trading Standards Institute and others who are working together to prevent people from being victims of scams.”
Louise Baxter, Team Manager, National Trading Standards Scams Team said: "The tactics used by scammers leave victims socially isolated and ashamed of telling their friends and families what's really going on behind closed doors.
“It is fantastic to have such an influential figure in the community to help us tackle this problem on a local, regional and national level and I would encourage all those that are interested in showing their support to join the campaign and be part of our growing SCAMbassador network."
For more information about becoming a Friend Against Scams including the full campaign pack, please visit http://www.tradingstandards.uk/standagainstscams or contact the TSI policy team firstname.lastname@example.org
Nick Smith MP is continuing the fight to tackle scammers, cold callers and rogue traders by joining a national campaign to protect vulnerable people. Mr Smith has joined the Friends...
Nick Smith MP is encouraging scam victims to come forward after a Trading Standards campaign revealed hundreds of crimes could have gone unreported in Blaenau Gwent.
Mr Smith is backing the Stand Against Scams initiative as they bid to tackle the £52bn annual bill in Britain’s finances caused by fraud.
Trading Standards revealed 38 Blaenau Gwent victims have lost £10,687 since 2013, with a further 197 potential victims that have been identified by the team in the area.
However, with 95% of scams going unreported, there are likely hundreds more victims in the borough.
The Labour MP has previously campaigned with Age Cymru to tackle doorstep scams, junk mailings and hoax calls, visiting constituents around the borough to help them protect themselves.
Now Mr Smith has joined forces with the Chartered Trading Standards Institute (CTSI) and the National Trading Standards (NTS) Scams Team to become a #scambassador to continue the fight in his community.
He said: “I am really pleased to support this initiative. Doorstep crime is such a troubling thing and it’s important to trading standards services tackle the various types of scams that so many people fall foul of.
“Although the average age of a victim in Blaenau Gwent is 69, people of all ages can fall for these con artists.
“It only takes one hoax that is too tempting and it can result in livelihoods being wrecked.
“I’d urge anyone who thinks they have been a victim to come forward”.
Leon Livermore, CTSI chief executive, said: “While it is often society’s most vulnerable that are targeted it is important to remember that anyone can fall victim.
“The impact is often heart-breaking and we know of people who have lost their life savings or even re-mortgaged their homes after becoming a repeated target.”
Louise Baxter, manager of the NTS Scams Team, said: "The tactics used by scammers leave victims socially isolated and ashamed of telling their friends and families what’s really going on behind closed doors.
"I would encourage all those that are interested in showing their support to join the campaign and be part of our #scambassador network which is already starting to grow.”
Anyone who thinks they have been the victim of a scam call Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040 http://www.actionfraud.police.uk/report_fraud
Nick Smith MP is encouraging scam victims to come forward after a Trading Standards campaign revealed hundreds of crimes could have gone unreported in Blaenau Gwent. Mr Smith is...
Nick Smith MP is asking constituents to Grow Wild after a successful green-fingered community event.
Nick Smith MP is asking constituents to Grow Wild after a successful green-fingered community event. Read more
Nick Smith MP has called on the Government to keep the valleys region moving as the future of EU-funded projects remains unclear.
Mr Smith has been asking in Parliament for the Government to financially support Blaenau Gwent and neighbouring boroughs, who have been aided for years by EU grants and capital investment.
On the request of Chancellor George Osborne, Mr Smith has written to the Treasury team making the case for the Government to back vital infrastructure projects across South East Wales.
These include the further developments to the Heads of the Valleys road and the proposed South Wales metro system – both of which are currently underpinned by EU funding.
Speaking after the Treasury questions session in Parliament, Mr Smith said the Brexit negotiations will be vital for Blaenau Gwent’s future for years to come.
“It’s the Government’s job to ensure we now get the best deal possible in the wake of Brexit”, he said.
“However, they must resist the temptation to funnel funding to the same old areas, the big city projects or the areas rich with Tory voters.
“I don’t want to see support for Blaenau Gwent dropping from the tens of millions to the tens of thousands and I think however you voted, we can all agree on that.
“I disagree with the Chancellor on a whole host of policies, but I hope his willingness to listen is a sliver of hope for the time ahead.
“We won’t forget it in this borough if we are abandoned. The Government must extend the same helping hand that the EU gladly offered for so long.”
A copy of the letter is below:
I am writing to you to follow up your offer in the commons chamber to detail proposals for the Government’s future infrastructure investment. Thank you for your positive and constructive response to these important questions.
I know you support the electrification of the valleys lines and have noted the city region metro, but with the detail still to be worked through on Brexit, future investment in these key infrastructure projects is unclear.
The South Wales Metro and the continued improvements to the Heads of the Valleys road past the Merthyr Tydfil area in South East Wales are of vital importance. They are projects that will be shovel ready, which will not only create jobs in their construction, but also will provide the links needed for business to thrive in my area. They are established plans that have received Welsh government, cross-party and business support.
However, both of these projects have EU funding at their core. The doubt that surrounds these projects is very real and my fear is that Blaenau Gwent and neighbouring boroughs will be left behind as everyone begins to fight for funding.
There will be many good projects that were to have received EU support which may now be stymied. I am sure they will all be brought to the attention of the Treasury for the future.
But given the special needs for economic regeneration in South East Wales I would be grateful if you could consider these points and back these projects financially. They are projects that promise to boost the economy in an area that needs boosting much more than most.
Nick Smith MP
Nick Smith MP has called on the Government to keep the valleys region moving as the future of EU-funded projects remains unclear. Mr Smith has been asking in Parliament for...
Nick Smith MP has called for answers from the Government in a bid to protect the future of a post-Brexit Blaenau Gwent.
Mr Smith has challenged both the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Secretary of State for Transport as Parliament reformed to deal with the implications of the EU referendum result.
Speaking at Treasury Questions, Mr Smith pointed out the importance of European Union funds for development in Blaenau Gwent and asked what measures were being taken for that support to continue – a situation described by George Osborne in response as a “challenging question”.
Then at Transport Questions Mr Smith argued for the importance of the mooted South Wales metro system, a plan requiring millions of EU money. However, the Minister could not name any action they would be taking to protect the project.
Speaking after the sessions, Mr Smith said with his borough receiving more money from the EU than it put in, it was vital to defend the levels of support needed to make improvements.
“I campaigned in a borough where our new road systems, hospital, schooling and town landscapes were all dependent on EU funding”, he said.
“I think whatever side of the debate you fell on, we can all agree it is now vial to champion the good that funding did and fight for equal or better support in the years ahead.
“Everyone is going to be clamouring for a piece of the pie while there is so much uncertainty over the future of the country. I would not want Blaenau Gwent to be left behind while the money is funnelled to richer areas like the South East of England.
“I’ll be making our voice heard, as I am sure will many of my Valleys colleagues.”
Please find the questions asked in Parliament this week and the responses below
1) Nick Smith: European Union funds have helped economic development in my constituency. What measures is the Chancellor going to take to ensure that areas such as south Wales continue to receive support for infrastructure and to help to boost jobs in our valleys?
George Osborne Chancellor of the Exchequer and First Secretary of State: We are going to face some big questions about providing support to the institutions, regions and sectors that have been receiving European Union assistance, most notably the regional support that has been provided to areas such as south Wales, the ongoing support that the EU provides for research in our universities and the support for our farming community. We in the House of Commons are going to have to address all those issues in the coming months and possibly beyond. However, at the moment we remain a member of the European Union—I shall talk about the procedure for our departure in a moment—and the European funding and grants will continue to be made. We are looking specifically at areas where questions have been asked about long-term uncertainty in relation to particular projects, and I will keep the House updated. This is a challenging question, which we have to answer, and we are looking at it very intensively now. But at the moment nothing has changed and we remain a member of the European Union.
That brings me back to the question of trying to resolve as quickly as is practical the uncertainty about the new relationship we are seeking with the European Union and our European neighbours. We need a bit of realism and we need to offer reassurance. It is apparent that the uncertainty will be fully resolved only when we as a country have negotiated an agreement with our European partners on the relationship we now want to have with them. We know what the broad options are. The Government spelled them out and set out the different relationship models over the past few months in the Treasury and Cabinet Office papers that were produced in advance of the referendum. We could join the European economic area, like Norway; we could forge a new negotiated bilateral agreement with the EU, like Canada; we could adopt the Swiss model; or we could rely on World Trade Organisation rules.
As the Prime Minister set out at this Dispatch Box, the Government have established a new unit at the heart of Government made up of some of the best civil servants, reporting to the Cabinet, that will help us as we make that decision. I stress, however, that Members of Parliament and other organisations can feed in to the work that is taking place, so that we have the fullest possible information on the decision that we will have to take collectively as a Parliament on our new relationship with Europe.
My view is clear that we should move towards an arrangement that provides us with the closest possible economic ties with our European neighbours. Close to half of our exports go to the EU and millions of jobs are supported by our trade with the EU. Leading industries, such as car manufacturing, farming and our services industry, are reliant on that relationship, and we should be moving towards an arrangement under which—if we reach it and can negotiate it—the trade of both goods and services, including financial services, is as free as possible. In the meantime, returning to a point I made earlier, UK firms continue to have exactly the same status as any other EU firm. Business continues in the City and elsewhere, including for euro-denominated trading in our financial markets.
However, I am a realist—we have to be realistic about this—and we must acknowledge that we cannot have all the benefits of the EU without accepting any of the costs and obligations. It will be for this Parliament to decide what the accommodations and compromises should be.
2) Nick Smith: A new metro system in south Wales would really help rail tourism there, but the planned metro is heavily dependent on EU support. What measures will theMinister take to ensure that the south Wales valleys metro system can be delivered?
Claire Perry Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Transport): Investment in rail services in Wales is now devolved to the Welsh Administration, so that funding is a matter for them. I am sure that, like me, the hon. Gentleman will welcome the fact that three of the winners of the competitions I mentioned were based in Wales, including the wonderful velorail bike visitor attraction, which involves cycling along disused railways on enormous great bicycles. There will be some tourism uplift from investments like those.
Nick Smith MP has called for answers from the Government in a bid to protect the future of a post-Brexit Blaenau Gwent. Mr Smith has challenged both the Chancellor of...
NICK Smith MP is calling for the Government to back British in their canteens after their poor food record was revealed.
The Shadow Farming Minister had previously criticised DEFRA for promoting their Great British Food campaign while importing nearly half the food for their Department.
NICK Smith MP is calling for the Government to back British in their canteens after their poor food record was revealed. The Shadow Farming Minister had previously criticised DEFRA for... Read more