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Last Updated: Thursday, 16 November 2006, 00:05 GMT
MPs call for loan shark crackdown
A purse
Poorer people tend to pay more for their money, the MPs said
A crackdown on loan sharks has been recommended by MPs in a bid to protect the UK's poorest and most vulnerable people from exploitation.

The Commons Treasury Committee said the activities of illegal and unlicensed lenders were "real causes for concern".

The committee said improved access to "affordable" credit and savings was needed for poor people - who often ended up paying more interest on loans.

It called for greater enforcement against illegal lending.

Committee chairman Labour MP John McFall said: "Many of the financial services that most people take for granted are either not available to many of the most vulnerable in our society, or are only available at a premium.

"The burden of debt blights the lives of far too many people in our society."

Credit union expansion

The committee said that promoting "financial inclusion" was needed to fight poverty.

"The first priority area for action if the government strategy on financial inclusion is to punch its weight is in improving access to affordable credit," the report said.

"We also expect the government to galvanise enforcement action against illegal lenders by stressing the high priority which it attaches to this matter."

It wanted "stronger enforcement action" by the Department of Trade and Industry against illegal lending.

It suggested expanding credit unions - financial co-operatives owned and controlled by their members - to allow them to increase their ability of borrow capital. Credit union members pool their savings together, which then provides funds from which loans are made.

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