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, includingI declare an interestin 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.
I am happy to answer the hon. Gentlemans 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.
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?
It is very good of my former Parliamentary Private Secretary to ask me that question. Clearlythe Minister might have a view on thisone 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.
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 Bills 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 Governments full support.
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?
We certainly think that the package of measures in the Bill and the Governments 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.
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.