It is a pleasure to follow my hon. Friend Sir Christopher Chope—a veteran, as he says, of sitting Fridays—on this, my first sitting Friday. I congratulate Anna McMorrin on securing this Bill and on choosing this issue. Her clear concern for the environment and for strengthening the UK’s economy after the coronavirus pandemic is truly commendable.
As I have mentioned to the House before, now is the time for promoting green investments. Their performance, quality and potential are widely documented. The environment is an issue that the whole House and indeed both Houses stand firmly behind, and I am grateful to be a part of the debate on the Bill. As colleagues have said, Members will be aware of the benefits that co-operatives bring to productivity, innovation and entrepreneurialism across the economy. The Government are in no doubt about the added value they bring. Indeed, I know that previous Governments have legislated to make the setting up and running of our co-operatives simpler, cutting red tape and promoting parity between co-operatives and companies when it comes to areas such as registration and audit.
Across the UK, membership of co-operatives has remained firm in recent years, with more than 7,000 independent co-operatives employing nearly a quarter of a million people and serving more than 14 million members. Clearly, co-operative values are popular among a significant cross-section of society: values of democratic ownership; autonomy; independence; promoting common economic, social and cultural interests of their members; and concern for the community. Without this shared ownership, many people may feel that they have less of a stake in society, in their community and in the economy.
Co-operatives have historically proven their mettle. This year’s annual assessment of the sector by the industry network, Co-operatives UK, indicates that a staggering 76% of co-operative start-ups are still running after the first five years, compared with less than half of all new companies. At a time when we are embracing innovation and entrepreneurship, co-operatives have demonstrated that they remain a productive part of the UK’s competitive spirit going forward.