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Co-Operative Development Agency

Volume 888: debated on Monday 10 March 1975

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20.

asked the Secretary of State for Industry if he will be introducing legislation to establish a co-operative development agency during the course of this session of Parliament.

The proposal to establish a co-operative development agency is under consideration, but it is unlikely that decisions will be taken in time to introduce any legislation that might be considered appropriate this Session.

Does my hon. Friend agree, however, that the co-operative development agency, as envisaged in the Labour Party manifesto, could play a very important part in extending co-operation in our economy and that co-operation is a very desirable form of social ownership, which has proved its worth over many years, in distribution and elsewhere?

I entirely support the sentiments my hon. Friend has expressed. That is why the concept was originally put into the manifesto. We have great hopes that it will be able to achieve the extension of social ownership and all that goes with it in a society that is still basically capitalist.

As, in the first co-operative that has got off the ground, the cost of saving each job is modestly estimated at £30,000, is this the new standard that the Government intend to apply to saving jobs? If so, and if 30,000 jobs are at risk in British Leyland, has the Minister calculated the cost? It is about £900 million.

The hon. Gentleman should take into account the fact that we shall not be confined to firms in which private enterprise has already totally failed.

Will my hon. Friend quell the animal noises emanating from hon. Members opposite by telling the House that the first co-operative got off the ground about 135 years ago, and that it has proved a great success? There are those of us in the co-operative movement who are very anxious to see this item in the manifesto proceeded with speedily.

My hon. Friend is right. There are many existing co-operatives in France, Italy, Spain and Sweden which are very successful forms of social enterprise.