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25th Jun, 2022

The Robin Walker Column - Worcester's MP writes for the Observer

Worcester Editorial 22nd Jan, 2014 Updated: 19th Oct, 2016

THIS week in Parliament will be a very busy one for me because, Parliamentary debates, like buses, don’t always come along neatly or when you are expecting them and in the space of a few days there are a whole run of them in which I have been looking forward to speaking.

On Monday there was a general debate about my Select Committee’s report on payday loans – an issue on which I have been campaigning for years.

I was happy to support the strong recommendations in the report for tighter controls on lenders, more data sharing so that the industry can do proper affordability checks and a levy on very high cost lenders to fund free debt advice.

The Government has already decided to bring in a cap on costs, which I welcome, but there is more to do to make sure consumers are protected and informed.

On Tuesday I had my own debate in Westminster Hall on the levy idea, which is designed specifically to help organisations like the Citizens’ Advice Bureau as they are negotiating to fix their budget for debt advice for the next three years.

Working with colleagues of all parties, I discovered that new lenders are due to be included in the levy that pays for this but there was a risk that, if Parliament took no action, their contributions would simply be swallowed in the general pot that pays for the regulator, not passed on to the free debt advice organisations that do such important work.

Hopefully, by having a timely debate and showing the cross party support that exists for doing something about this, we can get more funding for valuable voluntary sector groups.

On Wednesday we see the latest unemployment figures and I am hopeful that the positive trend of recent months can be sustained.

Unemployment is lower nationally since the election, but much lower in Worcester where the overall figure has now fallen by more than 1,000 or 40 per cent since its peak under Labour in 2010.

Youth unemployment has come down from 810 in 2009 to less than 500 today but I would like to see it lower still. I’ll look out for an opportunity to raise schemes like apprenticeships and the employment allowance that can help to get it even lower.

Also likely to come up in Parliament this week are plans for an above inflation increase in the minimum wage, which I strongly support because I believe it will help to make work pay and another one of my Select Committee reports, on giving pubs owned by the big pub companies the option to go free of tie.

For years the BIS Select Committee has expressed concerns about the way in which some of the largest pub companies have treated their tenants and the fear that this has led to unnecessary pub closures.

As a strong believer in the role of the local pub I will be speaking up for changes to help more locals stay open.

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