Co-operative and Community Benefit Societies (Environmentally Sustainable Investment) Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 10:21 am on 11th September 2020.

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Photo of Andrew Lewer Andrew Lewer Conservative, Northampton South 10:21 am, 11th September 2020

My hon. Friend’s commitment to his constituency and to this particular area is well known, and that was a well-chosen opportunity.

Another of my worries is that the Bill does not achieve what it sets out to. There are concerns that it could reduce the ability of co-operatives and community benefit societies to invest in green sectors. In its current form, the Bill would restrict rather than extend societies’ potential to take on mission-aligned investments for environmental purposes. If the intention is for more societies to raise more capital for environmentally beneficial activities, the legislation should provide capital-raising options that are useful for many societies in many contexts, rather than the limited number of circumstances to which the Bill limits it.

I am also aware of concerns that green shares—the main aim of the Bill—might unintentionally create a capital instrument with similarities to a mini bond, as has already been touched upon. That is something else that causes some difficulties. When Her Majesty’s Treasury’s review into regulatory arrangements, which includes mini bonds, is completed, the Government will need to carefully consider its findings before passing legislation that would in essence create capital instruments with similarities to those mini bonds.

Having been drawn in two Prime Minister’s Question Times in a row—this week and last week—and been drawn first for both private Members’ Bills today, I will not push my recent considerable luck any further, Madam Deputy Speaker, and will conclude. I am persuaded that the proper and right way to push towards the development of further green financial instruments is through a full consultation, which would give all parts of the sector a chance to put their views and the Government the chance to listen before considering introducing similar draft legislation. In some respects, I support the main ambition of the Bill, as do many of my colleagues, but in its current form, without extensive engagement with the sector, and for the reasons outlined in my speech and in some of the interventions, there remain some unanswered questions.