HC Deb 09 July 2002 vol 388 cc731-2
7. Mr. John Lyons (Strathkelvin and Bearsden)

If she will take steps to stop (a) the women empowering women scheme and (b) other pyramid selling. [65304]

The Secretary of State for Scotland (Mrs. Helen Liddell)

The women empowering women scheme, for those who do not know about it, is a cruel con, no better than a chain letter. As soon as the chain is broken, women lose money. The arithmetic of the scheme simply does not add up, and I congratulate my hon. Friend on his campaigning on the matter because publicity is the best way to protect women from the scheme. The Government are looking at other ways to protect those who get involved in this totally reprehensible means of pyramid selling.

Mr. Lyons

I thank my right hon. Friend for her response. Will she initiate immediate discussions with the Department of Trade and Industry on how best we can combat schemes such as women empowering women, or as she has properly called it, women conning women? These get-rich-quick schemes are driving people into the arms of loan sharks all over Scotland, and I congratulate the Daily Record on its stance on the issue. It is important that we make it very clear that loan sharks only bring fear, despair and intimidation into our communities.

Mrs. Liddell

I could not have put it better myself—my hon. Friend is absolutely right. To call such people loan sharks is to insult sharks. They are vermin who prey on the most vulnerable in our communities. The DTI is already looking into a review of the Consumer Credit Act 1974, and the Department for Culture, Media and Sport is examining women empowering women. It is a clever scheme: it is not technically pyramid selling because there is no product involved, but that does not mean that women do not lose substantial sums. Those who think it a laughing matter should come to some of Scotland's poorer communities and see what those people are doing.