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

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:13 pm on 11th September 2020.

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Photo of Chris Green Chris Green Conservative, Bolton West 12:13 pm, 11th September 2020

That is an excellent point. This debate has been very well informed on both sides of the House; we have heard my hon. Friend Simon Baynes and others use their expertise in highlighting their concerns. I think that means that the Bill ought to come back in one form or another. I think that so many people want it to come back because there is so much progress that we can make in this area.

Let me touch on a second aspect. As we see climate change and the activism that goes with it reach the peak of our political agenda—it has been there for a long time and we have no expectation that it will leave the agenda in the near future—we must be concerned to some degree about how political activism can impact mutual societies, co-ops and other membership organisations. I was alerted by what my hon. Friend John Lamont said. In fact, he was highlighting a point about the protection of these organisations, because he would not want an outside player to invest a significant sum and have a proportionate voice according to how much they are investing in the organisation.

This is about keeping the community voice just as relevant. The flip side of that is that if there is one-vote per investment, that lends itself to political activism. With a small investment, someone can have a significantly disproportionate say in the organisation. We all appreciate that many people involved in different organisations, of all sorts, are not politically active or politically engaged all the time; they make an investment and they want to leave it alone, and they want other people to make these decisions. So where an activist organisation is engaging and making these investments, they might be able to skew the views and values of the mutual organisation. We ought to be cautious about this and very much aware of it.