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Last Updated: Wednesday, 19 November 2003, 15:51 GMT
Spend it like Beckham
David Beckham
Spend it like Beckham was broadcast on BBC One on Sunday, 30 November, 2003 at 2215 GMT.

The British public is in the grip of a new disease. According to the experts we've caught luxury fever.

There's no question about the diagnosis, according to Dr Clive Hamilton of Cambridge University. He argues that now everyone wants to buy some of the luxury lifestyle we see the rich and famous enjoying.

"We're not trying to keep up with the Jones' anymore" he tells Panorama, "these days everyone's trying to keep up with the Beckhams."

And - as the programme discovers - you don't have to earn like Beckham, in order to Spend it like Beckham.

But should we be worried? The country's addiction to spending has helped keep the UK out of recession, but are we simply storing up major economic problems which - sooner or later - we will be forced to confront, especially if interest rates go up.

David Beckham look-a-like, Daniel Demont, joins Panorama reporter, Justin Rowlatt, in his mission to explore the British public's attitude to spending and borrowing. Rowlatt reveals how easy it is to open huge lines of credit, even for those on modest incomes.

One woman featured by the programme is on incapacity benefit of less than 4,500 a year, yet has been offered credit of 20,160 on credit and store cards.

That's because there's never been a better time to borrow. The consumer credit market's so competitive that lenders are falling over themselves for custom.

And the British public has been cashing in; steadily building up a debt mountain. We now owe a total of 905,782,000,000 - that's 15,300 debt for every man woman and child in the country.

So how long can Britain continue to Spend it like Beckham and is payback just around the corner?

Production team:
Reporter: Justin Rowlatt
Producer: Andy Bell
Assistant Producers: Shabnam Grewal, David Baxter
Deputy Editors: Andrew Bell, Sam Collyns
Editor: Mike Robinson

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