The Government support the credit union sector and recognise the contribution that they make to our financial services sector more broadly and to the communities that they serve. The Government have released £100 million of dormant assets funding to Fair4All Finance to support the financial wellbeing of people in vulnerable circumstances.
I should declare an interest as a former chair of a credit union. Credit unions are some of the largest providers of low-cost credit and are more important than ever given the cost of living issues at the moment, but there are significant barriers hindering their growth, not least legal restrictions on the size of their common bond area. I know that my hon. Friend the Economic Secretary is amending the Credit Union Act 1979 soon, so what plans does he have to look at issues such as this to support credit union growth and to give as many people as possible an opportunity to stay away from doorstep lenders and loan sharks?
I thank my hon. Friend for his question. He is an expert in this area, given his role in Barrow. We will be amending the Credit Union Act 1979 shortly, which will allow credit unions to offer more services such as hire purchase, conditional sale agreements and so on. With respect to the common bond—that being the link for all credit union members—we will need to see evidence that it supports the needs of the sector, but I have been working closely with the Association of British Credit Unions Limited, the trade body for 70% of credit unions, on its “Vision 2025” document. I visited its conference recently, and we will bring measures forward shortly in the financial services and markets Bill.
Further to the excellent question from the hon. Member for Barrow and Furness (Simon Fell), I say gently to the Minister that Ministers have always had warm words for credit unions, which I welcome, but have been somewhat slow to give them or other mutuals, such as friendly societies, the Whitehall and parliamentary support for the legal reforms to drive significant expansion. Will the Minister now back the private Member’s Bill of my hon. Friend the Member for Preston (Sir Mark Hendrick) and require all public bodies to promote credit unions going forward?
Over the years, we have had considerable dialogue on many of these measures. As I said, the legislation that the sector is looking for will be introduced in the next few weeks. I am aware of the Bill of the hon. Member for Preston (Sir Mark Hendrick), and I am seeking to have a meeting with him imminently—in the next few days or next week—to discuss it and to see what we can support.