Credit Unions — [Mr Gary Streeter in the Chair]

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 2:30 pm on 23rd November 2011.

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Photo of Damian Hinds Damian Hinds Conservative, East Hampshire 2:30 pm, 23rd November 2011

I certainly take, accept and agree with the hon. Gentleman’s general point. There are very specific issues about the regulatory regime in Northern Ireland, but I am not an expert so I will not attempt to talk about things that I do not know enough about. However, I have a feeling that we may hear more about the Northern Ireland situation later in the debate.

More generally with affordable credit, if people are not overpaying for their loans it means that wages go further, and of course that has a beneficial marginal effect on employment and growth. Benefits go further too, and when taxpayers are paying out sums in benefit they want to know that it is going to support families and children, rather than being swallowed up in sky-high interest rates. Credit unions can also help to deliver a renewed savings culture.

I thank the Government for their support of the sector, their recognition of the role that credit unions can play in increasing and improving financial inclusion, and for their general interest in mutuals, especially in the wake of the banking crisis. I also thank them for seeing the legislative reform order through, for their boldness and ambition with the modernisation fund of up to £73 million, and their willingness to look at radical options, such as the Post Office link-up.

Inevitably, however, I also have some asks. First, I ask the Government to please provide a proportionate regulatory framework for credit unions in the post-FSA world. Credit unions should not be penalised for a crisis in which they played no part, and for which they share none of the blame. Secondly, it would be good to get further details of the modernisation fund, and to get the key projects under way as soon as possible. Thirdly, we ask the Government to understand the pressures, challenges and costs associated with reaching the hard-to-reach and, finally, to continue to work as partners with all levels of government to address financial inclusion, rip-off loans and the erosion of the savings culture, to help responsive and responsible financial services, and to further the cause of social justice that brought us all into politics.