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Last Updated: Sunday, 20 March, 2005, 16:46 GMT
UK debt is at 'time bomb' levels
Shop assistant swiping credit card through machine
The spending urge puts millions of us at risk, the report says
UK personal debt levels are a "time bomb" that pose a threat to millions of households, a report commissioned by the Conservative Party has found.

Personal debt levels of more than 1 trillion mean that about 15 million people are exposed to external shocks such as a sharp rise in the oil price.

The report's authors have called for new laws to protect borrowers.

They also want more responsible lending, clearer information on charges and an end to aggressive marketing.

Maxed out?

According to research company Datamonitor, the average Briton owed 4,000 in unsecured debt at the end of 2004.

Conservative peer Lord Griffiths of Fforestfach was chairman of the group that looked into risks associated with personal debt levels in the UK.

Its recommendations will be published on Monday by Lord Griffiths, a vice-chairman of banking group Goldman Sachs.

Credit is far too easily available in the UK
Griffiths Commission on Personal Debt

He also was a director of the Bank of England and head of Downing Street's policy unit when Margaret Thatcher was prime minister.

Speaking on BBC Radio 4's The World This Weekend, Lord Griffiths said that a large part of the problem was the aggressive marketing of loans.

"I think there has been an un-level playing field between the banks and their customers. And I think frankly the rights of their customers need to be strengthened."

In its report, the commission said that "the sheer scale of consumer debt has made millions of households extremely vulnerable to shocks in the economy, both from fiscal mismanagement and external factors such as oil price rises, acts of terrorism and wars".

"A downturn in the economy would create serious economic and social problems for the 15 million people who struggle with debt repayments."

"Debt is a time bomb which could be triggered by any number of shocks to the economy."

"Credit is far too easily available in the UK."

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