My hon. Friend is absolutely right in the sense that community-based credit unions often have much more of a personal knowledge of the people who use them and who save in them, and it can often lead to much more responsible lending practices, borrowing and issuing of loans.
My local credit unions also said that it was very important that the savings-loans link was maintained because it encouraged a sustainable business model and lending. They welcomed the fact that finance for a financial education worker was available, which they said had been pulled in the past sometimes after just six months, and argued that the Government needed to be much more consistent in their support. They raised an important final point—that credit unions are often seen as low priority in comparison with banks when customers become bankrupt. They asked the Government to think about reviewing the law in this area to bring them equality of treatment, which would very much help the credit unions’ provision of services.
Sir Tony Baldry mentioned the influence of the credit unions in Ireland, which is also true of Australia, Canada and the northern states of the US. We need to expand the services available and end the stigma that has led credit unions to be seen as of second order, which they are certainly not.