Yvonne Fovargue MP: Understanding the financial struggles of ordinary people
In a few months, we had three prime ministers – including one for 45 days - and no less than four chancellors.
But the abiding memory will surely be about the economic recession and the financial struggles of millions of ordinary people.
October’s inflation rate of over 11% was the highest for 41 years; food prices have been rising even faster than that with gas and electricity bills rising faster still.
What with wages lagging far behind, we are now living through the biggest fall in living standards on record.
As you can imagine there have been plenty of debates around the cost of living in Westminster.
In the Queen’s Speech debate in May, I was one of a number of MPs calling for a windfall tax on North Sea oil and gas producers to provide rebates for consumers.
I also raised the issue of access to cash – which is a great budgeting tool in hard times – and help for those in debt. And, of course, scams.
It is surely one of life’s ironies that when they can least afford it, people are more likely to be the victim of a scam. Scams have also become more sophisticated and harder to spot in recent years.
In March, I spoke in a Westminster Hall debate calling for stronger action against online fake reviews and other exploitative practices such as subscription traps and drip pricing, where only part of an item’s price is advertised.
The following month, I helped to launch TSB’s report on tackling fraud, which rightly calls for all banks and Payment Service Providers, such as PayPal, to refund innocent victims of ‘push payment’ fraud and to publish their refund and reimbursement rates to show who are doing the most to support customers.
The TSB event also highlights the fact that much important work in Westminster is done outside the Commons Chamber and the committee rooms, important though they are.
For example, this year I hosted a number of meetings for MaPS, the Money and Pensions Advice Service. MaPS is the arms-length but government-sponsored body which funds much debt advice.
I felt it was my duty – as the Chair of the APPG on Debt and Personal Finance – to provide a space and a platform whereby their chief executive could be questioned by the many organisations affected by these decisions.
In November, I also hosted a reception for the Enforcement Conduct Board, a new body which provides independent regulation of the bailiff industry.
Readers will know that I have been calling out bad bailiff behaviour for some time. The body is therefore welcome, though I won’t be totally happy until it is placed on a proper statutory footing.
This year, I have taken some new roles. I am now a member of the Standards and Privileges Committee, which looks into the behaviour of MPs, and am also an unpaid Trade Envoy to Tunisia and Libya, where my role is to encourage commercial links with the UK.
These are demanding roles, but I can assure readers that I will continue to raise those issues around the cost of living, welfare, borrowing and debt that brought me into Parliament in the first place.