Mark Drakeford: Diolch i bawb sydd wedi cyfrannu at y ddadl brynhawn yma. Mae’r cyfraniadau o bob rhan o’r Siambr wedi adlewyrchu pwysigrwydd y pwnc.
[I thank everyone who has contributed to today’s important debate. The contributions from all parts of the Chamber reflected the importance of this issue]
I hope that Members will forgive me if, given the number of people who have spoken in the debate, rather than trying to reply to the individual points raised, I attempt to highlight three common themes that I think have come from all sides of the Chamber and been raised regularly in our discussion. The first thing that has come through powerfully this afternoon is the predatory nature of pay-day loans—the way that they exploit the most vulnerable at points in their lives when they are most desperate and least likely to be able to seek proper advice. We have heard powerful evidence this afternoon of the impact this has on the lives of individuals and families.
Secondly, this afternoon, we have looked beyond the symptoms of pay-day loans to look at their causes as well. There is the declining share of national income that goes to workers, the impact of unemployment and the failure of regulation to meet the challenges that pay-day loans companies create. Thirdly, and probably most importantly of all, we have also heard across the Chamber this afternoon of some practical solutions that could be applied, either by learning from actions taken elsewhere or by promoting and supporting alternatives already on the ground here in Wales. This debate will have done something useful if it simply raises awareness of the issue. However, it will do more if your votes support the motion’s call for the Welsh Government, with its key partners, to promote alternatives and publicise the real costs of pay-day loans.
I want to emphasise two examples of what that could mean in practice. Today, in Westminster, the future of the social fund is being debated. By far the greater part of the huge increase in the demand for crisis loans, which has almost overwhelmed the fund in recent years, has been driven by people left with nothing to live on while waiting for their first pay cheque to arrive. Carl Sargeant, as the Minister responsible, has issued a consultation paper on the future of the social fund should some of its responsibilities come to Wales. I really hope that Members will have the chance to look at that consultation paper. I am grateful to the Minister for issuing it. It has some very interesting and important suggestions to make about the way in which a reformed and revised social fund in Wales might be able to provide financial advice to people who otherwise fall into the clutches of pay-day loan companies. There is a genuine chance to make a difference in Wales, and I hope that we will be able to grasp it.
To emphasise what the Minister said, 13 February will see the launch of the first ever television advertising campaign by credit unions in Wales. It will run for a month. It will go head to head with pay-day loan companies at the time of day when they use advertising to promote their pernicious products. I really hope that Members will get to see those adverts, and I hope that you will be able to ensure that they are seen by those who need them the most. I hope that you will mention them in your newsletters, and I hope that you will get the publicised in your local newspapers. Credit unions have been consistently supported across the Chamber; now we can all do a little more to add to their success and help achieve the objects of this motion.
Today, however, you have one more immediate thing that you can do in voting for the motion. It will send a powerful message of support to those who already provide alternatives to pay-day loans throughout Wales, and, at the same time, it will send an equally powerful statement of the Assembly’s concern at the exploitation of those who are least able to withstand it. Please support this motion.