Belfast Telegraph

Friday 19 September 2014

Treasury caves in over credit union expansion

The Treasury has conceded to pressure from MPs and ministers in Northern Ireland to treat credit unions in Northern Ireland in the same way as those in Great Britain.

During a late night debate in the House of Commons on Monday, Treasury minister Ian Pearson gave a commitment that it would co-operate with introducing early legislation to bring the regulation of Northern Ireland credit unions under the Financial Services Authority and extend the range of services credit unions in Northern Ireland are permitted to provide.

The legislation will enable savers in credit unions here to have deposits guaranteed by the Financial Services Compensation Scheme.

At present, Northern Ireland credit unions operate their own compensation arrangements, which are not backed by government.

Speaking in the Parliamentary debate, Mr Pearson said the Treasury would try to adopt the new legislation, assuming that it received clear support for the move from the Northern Ireland Executive and Assembly, and providing the detailed regulation could be agreed with the FSA.

But he warned: "We do not have a lot of time left, but if my honourable friend the member for Foyle can get those messages from the Northern Ireland Executive and Assembly back to us as a Government, we will of course try and look at them and do what we can."

The concession was in response to an amendment tabled by Foyle SDLP MP and MLA Mark Durkan.

Speaking in the debate, Mr Durkan said: "We will try to get our skates on at our end if the minister can continue to be accommodating and encouraging at his."

After the debate, Mr Durkan added: "I am delighted to have received a hard-fought commitment from the Treasury to allow credit unions here to offer the full range of services like their counterparts in Britain or the South can offer."

Earlier this week the House of Commons Treasury select committee and its chairman John McFall backed calls for credit union regulation in Northern Ireland to be brought in line with the rest of the UK.

Finance Minister Sammy Wilson and Enterprise Minister Arlene Foster also addressed the committee and gave their backing to the amendment.

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