§ 8. Dr. Godman
To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland how many credit unions have been established in each of the past 20 years; what is the approximate size of membership of each of these credit unions; and if he will make a statement.
§ Mr. Needham
The information for the past 20 years is lengthy and I will write to the hon. Member. However, I can say that there are presently 113 credit unions operating 458 in Northern Ireland and their membership ranges in size from under 200 to over 12,000 with an average of approximately 1,200.
§ Dr. Godman
Does the Minister agree that many of those credit unions have been established in communities characterised by high unemployment, poverty and debt? Surely the time has now arrived for the repeal of the infamous Payments for Debt (Emergency Provisions) Act 1971? As there is no comparable legislation in mainland Britain, is not Northern Ireland being discriminated against by the retention of the PDA?
§ Mr. Needham
I do not agree. The Payments for Debt (Emergency Provisions) Act 1971 is important in being able to ensure that debt does not rise to totally unacceptable levels in Northern Ireland. However, I support the hon. Gentleman's view about credit unions, which play an excellent role in assisting those who are trying to save, in offering loans at low interest rates and so helping people to avoid getting into debt.