On 26th October 2015 the House of Lords debated at Second Reading the Government’s Bank of England and Financial Services Bill. The Bishop of Portsmouth, Rt Rev Christopher Foster, made a short speech welcoming any measure that would promote diversity in the financial services sector, including credit unions.
The Lord Bishop of Portsmouth: My Lords, this Bill offers an important way to confirm the Government’s commitment to promoting real diversity in the financial services sector. I want to make a very brief contribution in support of such diversity.
I hope that your Lordships will allow me a very mundane analogy, appropriate to someone like me—an amateur in this complex area. In the recent past, the international Anglican communion has been wrestling with the question of how its local ministry relates to global structures. I will not bore you with any details: there have been quite enough of those to contend with this evening already. Suffice it to say that at the heart of our deliberations has been the question of which aspects of church life are best agreed, shared and implemented internationally and which best happen locally. We have realised that, although global and national structures enable us to deliver much in terms of ministry, local delivery is of prime importance. When people think of the Church, they do not predominantly relate to international structures or even national bodies: they relate primarily to the local church and the local vicar, who may have helped them out when the going got tough.
For those of us close to the ground, in the banking sector in my lifetime, we have seen a shift from the local bank manager who knew your affairs and could guide you—we hoped—wisely and discreetly, to rather larger and often faceless multinational institutions that cannot relate, never mind respond, to localised needs of customers. Therefore, I want to place on record the importance today of credit unions, which—now that the building societies seem to have stepped away from local engagement—are often the best vehicle by which banking can take place responsibly and accountably within the local community. A requirement for the Bank of England, including the PRA and FCA, to consider diversity of provider would be a significant commitment to the benefit of both consumers and the wider economy. I invite the Minister to confirm on behalf of the Government that commitment to locally accountable, directly accessible facilities and advice, which are so important in our communities
Lord Bridges of Headley [extract]: …Let me start by addressing points that were raised by the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Portsmouth and my noble friend Lord Naseby. They both stressed the importance of the diversity of business models, especially mutuals and credit unions. I agree entirely with the noble Lord, Lord Davies, on the need for diversity. As noble Lords will know, the PRA is required to have regard to differences in the nature of and the objectives of businesses. This important recognition of diversity is preserved under the new arrangements, but I would be delighted to meet and discuss these matters further.