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

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 1:55 pm on 11th September 2020.

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Photo of Jo Gideon Jo Gideon Conservative, Stoke-on-Trent Central 1:55 pm, 11th September 2020

I am privileged to be able to take part, even by making a short contribution, in this excellent debate, which has informed us all about all the aspects of the Bill. I commend Anna McMorrin on her strong advocacy for the environment and climate change, which we share across the House. I also note her determination to support British farmers. We all celebrated Back British Farming Day on Wednesday. Stoke-on-Trent Central does not have a large farming community, but food security is a major issue that has come to the forefront in the pandemic.

We have heard a range of arguments about why the Bill needs more work, but I want to put on record how important co-operatives and community benefit societies are to the UK economy. Generally speaking, the hon. Member has the House’s backing; the question is whether the Bill is the best way to achieve those aims. I believe, as has been outlined, the Bill’s unintended consequences mean that it needs more work.

We need to be cutting red tape for co-operatives, not piling on yet more regulations. As a champion of small business, I have argued for many years for the removal of unnecessary red tape, which stifles entrepreneurial spirit and costs the economy significantly in unproductive time. I agree with my hon. Friend Simon Baynes that when we look to support the environmental agenda and community activity, co-operatives are but one of a range of different legal structures.

I have personal experience of this area: the hon. Member for Cardiff North may know Myddfai in the Brecon Beacons, where I helped set up the new community hall using sustainable geothermal heating, photovoltaic tiles and those sustainable things. That was done with a limited company that was a social business with the help of the Welsh Government. I think we need to broaden the discussion on delivery because, as was said, we do not want only certain sections of society or the community or certain types of businesses to be mainly responsible for delivering sustainability on the climate change and environmental agenda. It is such an important agenda for all of us that we need to work together on it.

As other hon. Members have said, I support the spirit of the Bill and hope that the hon. Member can bring it back in some form. Co-operatives are a huge part of our economy, and we welcome them. I would like to see more credit unions, which would be great for areas such as mine. However, the Bill in its current form does not work for me.