Clause 1

Co-operative and Community Benefit Societies and Credit Unions Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 4:30 pm on 10th June 2009.

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Registration of societies as co-operative or community benefit societies

Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

Photo of Malcolm Wicks Malcolm Wicks Labour, Croydon North

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship once again, Mr. Cook. I am pleased that we have been able to encourage such a distinguished group to be members of the Committee. The members are known for not only their intelligence, but, on occasion, their brevity.

The purpose of the Bill is to modernise and update the law for industrial and provident societies by changing their name, by improving their corporate governance, and by giving the Treasury the power to modify certain aspects of the law for co-operative societies and community benefit societies in line with company law. In addition, certain aspects of the law for credit unions will be modified in line with building societies law. This follows extensive consultations with the industry.

As you have mentioned, Mr. Cook, no amendments have been tabled, which reflects the fact that we had a very through and good debate on Second Reading that was characterised, as on so many recent occasions, by consensus on both sides of the House. Although the Committee will determine the form of the detailed scrutiny that the Bill is given, all things being equal there is no reason why the Committee should require a subsequent sitting, although time will tell.

Clause 1 provides that all new societies registered under the Industrial and Provident Societies Act 1965 shall be registered as co-operative societies or community benefit societies. It sets out the basis on which societies may be registered. The criteria are essentially those already in existing legislation, so no major change is made to the qualifying criteria. The introduction of the requirement will also ensure that such societies can be properly supervised by the Financial Services Authority, thus improving corporate governance over the sector.  By modernising the name from “industrial and provident society” to terms that are in common usage, we can help the sector adopt a modern, 21st-century persona.

The clause deals with the treatment of those societies already registered, or treated as registered, at present. Such societies did not have to register as a particular type of society. A “pre-2009 Act society” is not to be affected by the definitions of co-operative society or community benefit society in the Bill. The clause also makes consequential amendments to other legislation to reflect the changes made to the 1965 Act. Amendments are also made to section 16 of the 1965 Act, which deals with circumstances in which a society’s registration may be cancelled, to reflect the new registration provisions. The FSA, as registrar, will be able to cancel the registration of a society where it does not meet the new statutory definitions. Again, the status of societies registered, or treated as registered, under old section 1 of the 1965 Act is catered for.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 1 accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.