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Credit Unions

Volume 570: debated on Thursday 21 November 2013

The Archbishop of Canterbury has highlighted the need to support credit unions, so the Church is developing a credit union in association with some other national churches from across the country. To drive that, Archbishop Justin has convened a task group, which will be chaired by a senior figure from the banking industry with much relevant experience of the whole sector.

I welcome the archbishop’s commitment to credit unions, but is my hon. Friend aware of the investment by the Worcester diocese in the Castle and Crystal Credit Union in Dudley, which is available to many of my constituents living in social housing in Worcester?

That credit union is a model one. This will be a generational change; it will not happen overnight. We all need to support the credit union movement to ensure that those on low incomes and those who may have difficulties accessing credit do not fall into the hands of loan sharks. We are determined to take forward the building up of the credit union movement in this country.

Following on from the credit union question, the Church of England has many assets and quite a lot of cash investments, could it not invest that directly in a credit union to help the situation?

My hon. Friend will find that something like 45 bishops in at least 31 dioceses have already been involved in a range of activities to support and raise awareness of credit unions, including investing in them.

Given the financial firepower available to the Church Commissioners, this is an excellent way for the Church of England to re-engage with some of the most vulnerable in our society in these difficult times. Will my hon. Friend encourage the Church Commissioners to devolve the management of these credit unions down to parish level so that the parish priests and vicars can direct the help to those who most need it?

Credit unions are local organisations. The Church of England will not be running credit unions but will, wherever possible, support them with expertise and buildings and in any way we can. Credit unions are already local organisations and that is part of their importance, just like with local community banks. Of course it is very important that they deliver their services locally.