I congratulate my right hon. Friend Malcolm Wicks on at last getting the Bill closer to the statute book. I also congratulate and thank our noble colleague, Lord Tomlinson, who played a significant role in bringing the Bill forward in the other place. The Government support wholeheartedly the benefits of mutuals in providing choice and diversity in the financial marketplace, particularly during these uncertain times.
I also welcome the gracious, if slightly extensive, support from across the House, and the work of the Co-operative group of MPs and the Co-operative party, whose chairman, my hon. Friend Mr. Thomas, is sitting next to me on the Front Bench. The party's general secretary, Michael Stephenson, has also played a sterling role in helping to steer the Bill through the House.
The Bill will modernise the legislative framework for about 500 credit unions and about 8,000 industrial and provident societies. It will benefit those bodies and their many millions of members, so that, after an illustrious history over the past couple of centuries, they can move forward proudly into the 21st century. The fundamental nature of the mutuals will not be undermined by the legislation; they will be strengthened by the Bill. The sector will continue to grow, as the legislation will increase member confidence in the societies by improving their standards of corporate governance, thus placing the mutual sector on a firmer footing.
This week saw the laying in Parliament on Monday of the Legislative Reform (Industrial and Provident Societies and Credit Unions) Order 2010, the secondary legislation that partners the Bill. The Bill seeks to address matters that could not be dealt with under the powers of the legislative reform order but that are equally important for the legislative and regulatory reform of this valued sector of the financial services field. I am delighted that my right hon. Friend the Member for Croydon, North has brought it this far, and I commend the Bill to the House.