HL Deb 13 March 1991 vol 527 cc180-1

3 p.m.

Viscount Brentford asked Her Majesty's Government:

What plans they have for bringing the law relating to friendly societies up to date.

The Minister of State, Department of Trade and Industry (Lord Hesketh)

My Lords, proposals for a new legislative framework for friendly societies were set out in a Green Paper published last year. Legislation to give effect to those proposals is being prepared and a Bill will be brought forward in a future Session, when the parliamentary timetable permits.

Viscount Brentford

My Lords, I thank my noble friend the Minister for that Answer. Can he confirm that it is the Government's policy to encourage savings by people throughout the country? Does he agree that the friendly societies have always provided a well-tried and excellent method of encouraging savings by people of average and modest means and that it is therefore essential that reforming legislation comes before us as soon as possible?

Lord Hesketh

My Lords, I can safely say that the Government's answer to the two points raised by my noble friend and to his statement is in the affirmative.

Lord Taylor of Gryfe

My Lords, will the survey which is being undertaken in this regard embrace the changed structure of co-operative societies, which are governed under similar legislation, and the mutual insurance societies, some of which are being tempted to become plcs? Will that problem be embraced in the consideration of friendly society legislation?

Lord Hesketh

My Lords, the Question on the Order Paper refers to friendly societies. If the noble Lord wishes to put down a Question with regard to co-operative or mutual societies I shall be more than happy .to answer it.

Baroness Blackstone

My Lords, is the Minister aware that the ceiling on tax-exempt savings for friendly societies is now only £150 a year? Does he agree that that compares very unfavourably with the Government's new savings scheme —the TESSA scheme —which was possibly named after me as one of the nation's great savers? Should not the Government tackle that anomaly in advance of any legislation in view of the delay in bringing in new laws?

Lord Hesketh

My Lords, the Government do not consider that it would be appropriate or desirable for friendly societies to be empowered to have deposit-taking subsidiaries as they do not have sufficient expertise or experience in that area.

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