Co-operative and Community Benefit Societies Bill [HL] — Second Reading

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 8:30 pm on 13th January 2014.

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Photo of Lord Newby Lord Newby Lords Spokesperson (HM Treasury) (Whip), Captain of the Queen's Bodyguard of the Yeomen of the Guard (HM Household) (Deputy Chief Whip, House of Lords) 8:30 pm, 13th January 2014

My Lords, I am grateful to noble Lords who have spoken in this pleasingly short debate at this time of the evening.

The noble Lord, Lord Hodgson, asked me some very technical points and I will of course write to him as he suggested. He asked about the extent to which the FCA will prioritise looking at IPSs. The FCA is committed to maintaining the registration requirements of being a bona fide co-operative or community benefit society. One of the measures that the Government will bring forward will give the FCA additional powers to investigate these societies for irregular activities, as well as disqualifying directors where appropriate. There has been a long-held view that the FSA has devoted very little attention to this sector, but there is a logic in the regulators putting in more effort to make sure that, as the sector grows both in size and prominence, it is well regulated. However, I will certainly pass on his view that this is a sector which the FCA certainly cannot afford to ignore.

The noble Lord, Lord Tunnicliffe, very kindly welcomed the Bill. One advantage of consolidation Bills is that if you do attempt to read them, the first parts—until it gets into the schedules—are often a much better read than what preceded them. This is a consolidation Bill albeit with the Law Commission’s drafting amendments to clarify various ambiguities. Why, he asks, are we consolidating in this area rather than in a lot of others? We have been very keen as a Government to simplify and develop the law in this area. It has been a bit of a patchwork quilt. There has been a long tradition that mutuals legislation is introduced as private Member’s legislation, and more than with other types of legislation, little pockets of provision have developed over the decades. As the sector grew, however, it needed legislation that was commensurate to its new status.

There will be other consolidation Bills in due course. The challenge is, as much as anything else, around resources. Sadly, this Government are no less keen than their predecessor to produce a large volume of legislation; and sadly, from the parliamentary counsel’s point of view, there are limited resources. The other challenge, as always, is to consolidate at a time when there are often new changes which are sometimes difficult to provide for legislatively. However, the whole process of consolidation is an important one in terms of keeping the law up to date and useable. The Government are committed to maintaining that approach.

I am grateful to noble Lords who have spoken. We believe that this is a useful piece of tidying-up legislation, and I commend the Bill to the House.

Bill read a second time and committed to the Joint Committee on Consolidation Bills.