Clause 3 - Power to modify, etc. to assimilate to company law

Part of Industrial and Provident Societies Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 11:45 am on 13th February 2002.

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Photo of Ruth Kelly Ruth Kelly Economic Secretary, HM Treasury 11:45 am, 13th February 2002

I thank my hon. Friend for his useful intervention, in the light of which I am happy to consider the clause further with him.

The hon. Member for Christchurch has tabled an amendment to new clause 5 that would move the Bill—as amended by the new clause—more closely into line with other mutual society legislation. However, it would not deal with all of our concerns about the scope of Treasury powers. I would like to consider the amendments further to see whether it is possible to offer additional flexibility to the movement to update legislation, while ensuring that power delegated to the Treasury is appropriate; it should be consistent with our relationship with Parliament and the role that Parliament needs to play in the consideration of what is proposed.

We have already had an interesting exchange about amendment (d), tabled by the hon. Member for Christchurch, which would deny the Government the power to create criminal offences when updating industrial and provident society legislation under clause 3 provisions. We are not prepared to accept the amendment. My hon. Friend has already fully responded to it. If a criminal offence exists for a certain action under company law, I do not see why it should not be considered for the equivalent area of industrial and provident society legislation. That does not mean that we would always be obliged to create a criminal offence. The clause as drafted would allow some discretion as to how company law was assimilated.

I hope that that provides some reassurance to the hon. Gentleman. However, enacting such a prohibition now would reduce the chances of maintaining a fair and level playing field in relation to companies, where we think it is appropriate. We might, for example, feel that the creation of a criminal offence in some contexts would be the most appropriate way to protect the interests of society members. At the moment, I would not like to prejudge the circumstances in which that might happen.

The provision to create criminal offences is present under the equivalent provisions in building society legislation and I see no reason why we should not have the option to treat industrial and provident societies similarly. I therefore ask that the amendment be withdrawn.