HC Deb 20 January 2003 vol 398 cc46-7W
Lynne Jones

To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer (1) if he will make it his policy to set up a national network of free or affordable financial advice centres; [91086]

(2) what plans he has to increase consumer awareness about sources of unbiased financial advice. [91085]

Ruth Kelly

It is important that everyone should have access to appropriate financial education, information and generic advice to understand his or her options, as well as having access to regulated product specific advice where appropriate.

We have noted the proposals for a new network to provide financial education, information and generic advice, with interest. Many organisations are already involved in the provision of those forms of help, such as adviser and product provider firms, trade associations and Government and regulators. A wide range of charitable and voluntary sector organisations are also active in providing individuals with help on their finances, including Citizens Advice, Citizens Advice Scotland, National Debtline, and other money advice, information and advice organisations.

The Financial Services Authority (the FSA) has a statutory objective to promote public understanding of the financial system.

I welcome the work the FSA is undertaking to look at the feasibility of a new tool to help deliver consistent, high quality, interactive generic help for those who need it. We also welcome the work the FSA will be doing to develop a more general strategy for consumer education, information and advice. We understand they plan to consult on this in the summer of 2003.

The FSA already offer a great deal of help, for example through publishing a guide to financial advice which gives contact details for commercial advisers, trade associations, government, and charitable and voluntary organisations, as well as already providing specific help with many financial products and services, such as pensions, annuities, bank accounts and ISAs.