Belfast Telegraph

Monday 20 October 2014

Treasury committee backs call to expand credit union services

The powerful House of Commons Treasury select committee has backed calls for credit union regulation in Northern Ireland to be brought in line with that of the rest of the UK.

A spokeswoman for the committee confirmed that its chairman, John McFall, has written to the Treasury urging it to treat credit unions in Northern Ireland in line with those in Great Britain which are regulated by the Financial Services Authority and backed by financial guarantees from the Financial Services Compensation Scheme.

However, the letter did not go so far as to back the amendment to the Financial Services Bill which was tabled last week by Foyle SDLP MP and MLA Mark Durkan. Mr McFall and the Treasury Select Committee met at Stormont last week to hear representations about the failure of the Presbyterian Mutual Society. The committee was lobbied on the treatment of Northern Ireland credit unions at that meeting. "We are writing our report at the moment," John McFall told the Belfast Telegraph. He declined to discuss the letter to the Treasury.

The cross-party support for Mark Durkan's amendment was made evident at the Treasury Select Committee hearing.

Sammy Wilson, the finance minister and DUP MP and MLA, expressed his confidence that the amendment would be approved by Parliament. "I am sure it will be accepted," he told the Treasury Select Committee.

Enterprise minister and acting first minister Arlene Foster also addressed the committee, saying: "There is a need to look at how we will be able to move to a situation where the FSA will regulate credit unions moving on into the future".

The Assembly's enterprise committee has also backed the amendment to the Financial Services Bill, which would extend the services that credit unions in Northern Ireland could offer.

Mr Durkan said: "It is essential in tackling financial exclusion that credit unions are allowed to offer all the services that their members need.

"We have an exceptionally strong credit union movement here in the North with over 400,000 members. This is a much stronger base than in Britain but, perversely, credit unions here are much more restricted in the services they can offer."

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