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Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, I have long ceased to think that Members of your Lordships' House are innocent. However, the Financial Services Authority is aware of this type of advertisement. It will be considering those campaigns as a part of its routine
Lord Saatchi: My Lords, has not the noble Lord, Lord Barnett, as he usually does, put his finger on a most important point about ISAs? Many people in the savings profession believe that ISAs have failed because, quite simply, they are too complicated. Generally, advertisers do not set out to produce misleading advertisements--unless they are for a certain political party, shall we say. However, can the Minister tell us whether the complication of ISAs and their failure are the reasons why the Prime Minister's promise that he would deliver 6 million extra savers as a result of ISAs has failed to be delivered? Instead of delivering that promise, there has been a halving of the savings ratio since the Labour Government took office.
Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, the noble Lord knows more about misleading advertisements for political parties than I do. I yield to him entirely on that point. However, he is quite wrong to say that ISAs have failed. Despite the fact that there was a rush into PEPs and TESSAs before the end of the financial year, in the first three months of ISAs, £7 billion has been invested in 3.5 million accounts. That compares with only £3.9 billion invested in the same period in the previous year. The punters themselves are giving the lie to the fears expressed by the noble Lord.
Lord Newby: My Lords, notwithstanding what the Minister has just said about the take-up of ISAs, does he accept, first, that a recent survey has found that over four-fifths of all ISAs are being taken up by those in social groups ABC1 and therefore are not being taken up by the people for whom they were specifically targeted?
Secondly, does the noble Lord agree with the view of the Consumers' Association that the rules are unduly complicated and that there are specific measures of simplification which could well lead to a greater take-up, such as abolishing the maxi-ISA, which is immensely confusing, and raising the limit on the mini-ISA?
Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, evidence on who is taking up ISAs is still anecdotal, but many of the companies issuing ISAs have reported that there has been a considerable increase in take-up among young people in the 18 to 24 year-old age group, and particularly among women. I simply do not accept that there is any evidence that ISAs are failing to meet our objective of extending the number of people who are saving.
On the noble Lord's second question, I am a supporter of the Consumers' Association and my family has subscribed to it since 1957. However, in this case the association has made a mistake. It carried out its investigation in May and June, or even in April and May, which were the first two months of operation. It has drawn the unjustifiable conclusion that ISAs are
Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, all I can say to that is that the noble Earl has a short fuse. The statistical evidence suggests that other people have a little more application than the noble Earl, are prepared to look at the range of ISAs on offer, and are taking them up.
Baroness Platt of Writtle: My Lords, does the noble Lord accept that ISAs are very complicated? I am quite keen to invest, but I find it difficult to find out all the details that would lead me to decide that one ISA is better than another. Does the Minister agree that we need a much less complicated system?
Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, we are dealing with two different issues here. The first is how to choose between different ISAs. It is not possible to make a generalisation about that because different people have different needs. Independent financial advisers exist precisely because of those differing needs. However, it does not follow from that that the system is too complicated. There are maxi-ISAs and mini-ISAs. Maxi-ISAs have one provider and up to three elements, while mini-ISAs have one element and up to three providers. It is not terribly complicated.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Scotland of Asthal): My Lords, we have expressed our and James's and Rachel's families' concern to the Burmese authorities at the way certain aspects of their separate cases have been handled. We remain in close touch with the families and will continue to provide full consular protection and do all that we properly can to assist both during their detention.
Lord Alton of Liverpool: My Lords, I thank the Minister for all that she personally has been doing to assist Rachel Goldwyn and James Mawdsley. Has she had chance to consider the appeal made by James Mawdsley that Her Majesty's Government should
Baroness Scotland of Asthal: My Lords, your Lordships will not be surprised to know that Her Majesty's Government have not ceased to press their complaints about the undemocratic processes in operation in Burma. We have been at the forefront of those wishing to impose sanctions to achieve an appropriate Burmese response. However, your Lordships will also know that there is not total agreement about the way in which that response should be managed. We have endeavoured to do all we can to raise the concerns many have expressed, not least about the length of the sentences imposed. However, we must bear in mind that judicial systems are entitled to operate within their own confines. Every effort is being made on behalf of Rachel Goldwyn in particular by those representing her and receiving her instructions to pursue her appeal. For the moment, James Mawdsley has chosen not to appeal. He has one more month in which to reconsider his position and lodge an appeal, However, that is a matter for his choice.
Baroness Cox: My Lords, I appreciate what the Government are doing on behalf of the two people involved. Is the Minister aware that the very courageous young man, James Mawdsley, went to Burma with the intention of raising in the public arena, particularly with the SPDC, the release of all political hostages, the opening of universities, and respect for the legitimate rights of the National League for Democracy and the ethnic minorities? Has the Minister raised these issues with the SPDC, and if so, what was its response?
Baroness Scotland of Asthal: My Lords, I am not able to tell noble Lords the precise nature of all the conversations that have taken place over many months in regard to these issues. However, I can reassure the House that human rights are an issue that is constantly brought to the attention of Burmese representatives and pursued with vigour. The noble Baroness is right when she says that James Mawdsley went to Burma knowing that he was in breach of a suspended sentence and that the acts he intended to commit would be in contravention of the Burmese position. For the moment, we are in a sensitive
Lord Moynihan: My Lords, I have listened carefully to the Minister's replies, especially the first. Perhaps the noble Baroness can give an example of how the Government's policy of constructive engagement and dialogue, including our trade links to which she referred, has improved the human rights situation in Burma over the past two and a half years.
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