Clause 5

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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Power to make provision corresponding to provision applying to building societies

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

Photo of Malcolm Wicks Malcolm Wicks Labour, Croydon North

Clause 5 is particularly important because it enables provisions corresponding to building society law to be made for credit unions, which I know have broad support in House, not least at this difficult financial time.

The power will allow any provisions of building societies legislation that are deemed appropriate to be mirrored for credit unions. There has been a significant  expansion in credit union membership in recent years, including—I declare an interest—in my own Croydon credit union. The best way to allow credit union law to keep pace with credit unions’ expanding membership and operations is to bring it in line with building society law, which is tailored to deal with issues specific to institutions that accept deposits.

The power is widely drawn to allow any provisions of building society legislation that are deemed appropriate to be mirrored for credit unions, but there are restrictions to ensure that specific provisions of existing credit union law cannot be modified. Thus provisions regarding registration, the use of the name “credit union”, the general prohibition on deposit taking, amalgamations or transfers of engagements, and conversion of status for a credit union company, are safe. There is a requirement that the Treasury consult such persons as appear appropriate before using the new power.

Photo of Mark Hoban Mark Hoban Shadow Minister (Treasury)

Will the right hon. Gentleman indicate whether draft regulations will be published in respect of the powers given to the Treasury under the Bill?

Photo of Malcolm Wicks Malcolm Wicks Labour, Croydon North

I am happy to answer the hon. Gentleman’s question, but I am sure that the Minister will be able to give some indication of that, even if there cannot be a chronologically specific indication. This is a matter for the Minister, the Treasury and the Government and not, thankfully, for the ex-Minister.

Depending on which provisions of building society law are converted into credit union law, the Treasury may need to confer powers to make orders, regulations and other subordinate legislation to create criminal offences, and to provide for the charging of fees, but not any charge in the nature of taxation.

Photo of Nick Palmer Nick Palmer Labour, Broxtowe

Does my right hon. Friend have any reservations about creating criminal offences with the Treasury consulting only

“such persons as appear to them to be appropriate”— in other words on quite a summary basis?

Photo of Malcolm Wicks Malcolm Wicks Labour, Croydon North

It is very good of my former Parliamentary Private Secretary to ask me that question. Clearly—the Minister might have a view on this—one has to be careful about such criminal offences and how we consult on them. However, not least given the backdrop of the financial crisis that we have been going through, it is important that law is strong in this area and, if necessary, it should include such offences. I defer to the Government on the details of the consultation.

Photo of David Lepper David Lepper Labour, Brighton, Pavilion

On a point of order, Mr. Cook. May I place on record my membership of the Sussex credit union before we proceed to a decision on this clause?

Photo of Ian Pearson Ian Pearson Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Economic and Business), Department for Business, Enterprise & Regulatory Reform, Economic Secretary (Economic and Business), HM Treasury, Economic Secretary, HM Treasury

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship this afternoon, Mr. Cook, for what I imagine will be a brief but important sitting. I congratulate my right hon. Friend the Member for Croydon, North on his Bill, which the Government fully support.

The hon. Member for Fareham asked when the draft regulations would be published. The Treasury intends to consult fully before taking things further. The time scale is not yet set, but it will depend on the speed with which the Bill is enacted. The hon. Gentleman will be aware that we intend to take a legislative reform order through the House shortly, and we want the time scale to be appropriate.

To respond to my hon. Friend the Member for Broxtowe, Treasury consultation always takes place with appropriate people. There was extensive dialogue with the credit union movement and industrial and provident societies before and during the Bill’s gestation period, and I have every confidence that all whom need to be consulted will be consulted.

I must admit to being something of a linguistic conservative. I do not like the disappearance of words such as “industrial and provident societies”, just as I did not like the words “trade and industry” disappearing from the title of a Government Department. However, I am aware that there is a broad consensus that the term is outdated. The earlier clauses attracted no comment from me because they have the Government’s full support.

Photo of Mark Hoban Mark Hoban Shadow Minister (Treasury)

May I take the Minister back to my question about the regulations that will be made under the Bill, assuming it passes, and his comments about the LRO for credit unions? Is it fair to say that through a combination of the Bill and the LRO, the Government will implement all steps that they expect to take to modernise the legislative framework for credit unions?

Photo of Ian Pearson Ian Pearson Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Economic and Business), Department for Business, Enterprise & Regulatory Reform, Economic Secretary (Economic and Business), HM Treasury, Economic Secretary, HM Treasury

We certainly think that the package of measures in the Bill and the Government’s proposed legislative reform order will represent a comprehensive update of legislation in this area. The Government will always want to keep matters under review, but we certainly intend that the Bill and the subsequent legislative reform order will represent a major piece of work.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 5 accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Photo of Frank Cook Frank Cook Labour, Stockton North

If my information is correct, I understand that the right hon. Member for Croydon, North would like to speak to clauses 6 to 8 together. I will permit that, with the Committee’s agreement, and I will put a separate Question on each clause afterwards.

Photo of Malcolm Wicks Malcolm Wicks Labour, Croydon North

May I move all three clauses formally, Sir? [Laughter.]

Photo of Nicholas Winterton Nicholas Winterton Conservative, Macclesfield

On a point of order, Mr. Cook. I know that you were seeking to be helpful. I think that the Bill is very sound, which is one reason why it has all-party support. It also has such support because the promoter of the Bill, the right hon. Member for Croydon, North, is not only experienced and informed, but respected. I am happy to support the Bill.

Photo of Frank Cook Frank Cook Labour, Stockton North

What a splendid statement. For the benefit of the record, that was Sir Nicholas Winterton.

Clauses 6 to 8 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Bill to be reported, without amendment.

Committee rose.