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Change for credit unions if FSA plan approved

The Government is investigating the possibility of bringing Northern Ireland's numerous credit unions under the regulatory umbrella of the Financial Services Authority (FSA).

News of the potential shift in oversight of credit unions was contained in the small print of last week's Budget document.

It said: "The Government is exploring ways in which Northern Irish credit unions can be brought within FSA regulation at the earliest opportunity and intends to consult widely later this year on reform of industrial and provident societies in both Great Britain and Northern Ireland."

Responding to an inquiry as to what this could mean for credit unions, a spokesman for the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment said: "DETI is working closely with HM Treasury to bring forward policy proposals affecting the future role of credit unions in Northern Ireland.

"The proposals include the transfer of regulatory responsibility from DETI to the FSA. This would be the initial step in the aim to permit credit unions here to offer an expanded range of services.

"A consultation document setting out this and the other proposals is expected to issue on a UK-wide basis shortly. These proposals are relevant only to credit unions located in Northern Ireland."

Yesterday the First Minister and deputy First Minister said they had agreed how to resolve the crisis in Presbyterian Mutual Society, which is in administration.

The DETI spokesman added: "While the Budget announcement has no direct implications for the Presbyterian Mutual Society at this time, it is intended DETI and HM Treasury will consult jointly on the reform of industrial and provident societies in both Great Britain and Northern Ireland later in the year."