Clause 1

Co-operative and Community Benefit Societies and Credit Unions Bill [Lords] – in a Public Bill Committee at 9:30 am on 3rd March 2010.

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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

May I first say, and not in the merely conventional way, what a pleasure it is to serve under your chairmanship, Sir Nicholas? You will be retiring at the next general election, and I would like to thank you, on behalf of myself and my colleagues, for your great service to the House. We understand your advice on the need to dispose of the Bill relatively quickly. I should add that I am also a member of the other private Member’s Bill Committee, but I do not know whether, logistically, I can rush into that Committee Room and make a long speech as a filibuster. I think it is better that I simply get on with this speech.

I hope that the Bill is an exemplar of the maxim that good things come to those who wait. I originally introduced the Bill in the House on 21 January 2009. It went through the Commons stages without amendment—it  was not controversial politically—but was not able to complete its passage through the Lords before Parliament was prorogued on 12 November 2009. Concerns were raised in relation to the Bill in another place by the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee and the Constitution Committee, as well as by Baroness Noakes, who tabled amendments at the Lords Committee stage that form the basis for some of the changes to the Bill.

The Bill continues to have Government support and was re-introduced as a private Member’s Bill in the House of Lords on 19 November 2009, thanks to Lord Tomlinson. It had its Second Reading in the Lords on 11 December 2009, and the order of commitment was discharged, with no amendments having been tabled, on 7 January 2010. It had its Third Reading and was passed by the Lords on 14 January 2010. The First and Second Readings in the Commons took place on 14 and 29 January respectively. The Bill is identical to that in the previous Session, except for minor amendments to clauses 4(7)(b), 4(8) and 5(1), which inserts new section 23A(3)(b) into the Credit Unions Act 1979.

I will now briefly explain those provisions further. As stated, during the passage of the original Bill through the other place, concerns were raised by the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee and the Constitution Committee, as well as by Baroness Noakes. In essence, the concerns related to the powers granted to the Treasury under clause 4 to import measures from the Companies Act 2006 in relation to industrial and provident societies, and under clause 5 to apply building society law to credit unions. Specific concerns were expressed in respect of the powers granted to the Treasury to create criminal offences, and in respect of the fact that there was no express duty in the Bill to consult before making regulations under clause 4.

In addressing those concerns, I draw right hon. and hon. Members’ attention to clauses 4(7)(b) and 5(1), which ensure that the Government can only create criminal offences, first, in circumstances corresponding to an offence in the legislation being applied and, secondly, subject to a maximum penalty no greater than is provided for in the corresponding offence. Additionally, I refer Members to clause 4(8), which makes explicit the requirement to consult before assimilating company law measures into industrial and provident society legislation. Such a requirement to consult on building society law and credit unions already existed in the previous draft of the Bill and is in clause 5(6) of the current Bill.

I shall briefly introduce clause 1. It 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 and so no major change is made to the qualifying criteria. Modernising the name by changing it from “industrial and provident society” to terms that are, in any case, in common usage, means that we can help the sector to adopt a modern 21st-century persona. The clause deals with other details, but I do not think that I need detain the Committee with those at this stage.

Photo of Sarah McCarthy-Fry Sarah McCarthy-Fry Parliamentary Secretary, HM Treasury

I congratulate my right hon. Friend on bringing the Bill forward. The Government fully support  it and I am grateful to him for bringing it before the Committee. I am sure that it is all the better for the revisions to the previous draft. I commend it to the Committee.

Photo of Nicholas Winterton Nicholas Winterton Conservative, Macclesfield

In my 24 years on the Chairmen’s Panel, that is the shortest ministerial speech I have ever heard, so, from the Chair and totally impartially, I commend the Minister for her brevity.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 1 accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 2 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Photo of Alun Michael Alun Michael Labour, Cardiff South and Penarth

On a point of order, Sir Nicholas, would it be in order for all remaining clauses to be moved together?

Photo of Nicholas Winterton Nicholas Winterton Conservative, Macclesfield

I have to advise the right hon. Gentleman, who is a very experienced Member of the House—a past Minister and First Minister of Wales—that I have to put each clause separately.

Clauses 3 to 8 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Question proposed, That the Chairman do report the Bill to the House.

Photo of Malcolm Wicks Malcolm Wicks Labour, Croydon North

Briefly, Sir Nicholas, thank you for your firm and useful advice on the dispatch of the Bill. I would like to place on record my thanks to Lord Tomlinson, who has been diligent in getting the legislation through to us. I would also like to place on record my thanks to the Treasury civil servants who were loaned to me temporarily to help with the Bill.

Photo of Nicholas Winterton Nicholas Winterton Conservative, Macclesfield

The right hon. Gentleman is an ex-Minister and knows how to pay tribute to the independence and expertise of the civil service and departmental staff. Before I put the final question, may I say that I suspect that this will be the final private Member’s Bill Committee that I chair? It has been a pleasure and I am glad that I have contributed to the expeditious way in which the Committee has dealt with this desirable and most helpful Bill. I congratulate the right hon. Gentleman on how he has presented the Bill and the Minister on her support.

Question put and agreed to.

Bill accordingly to be reported, without amendment.

Committee rose.