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Volume 468: debated on Thursday 29 November 2007

The Government recognise the major contribution that co-operatives make in providing greater choice and diversity in financial services and the wider economy. We intend to update the legislation governing co-operatives to enable them to compete with other companies and to serve their local communities more effectively. We consulted on legislative reform in the summer, and I am pleased to say that we received more than 200 responses. We will publish further consultations later this month.

I greatly welcome the work that the Government and my hon. Friend are doing on reviewing the industrial and provident society legislation. I agree that co-operatives play a huge role across the country. In advance of introducing any primary legislation, will she review whether steps could be taken immediately under regulatory reform legislation to increase the £20,000 limit on withdrawable share capital? Will she also consider relaxing the requirement on interim accounts that exists for co-ops in the same way that it does for companies?

I am grateful for my hon. Friend’s suggestions. When we publish our ideas on these matters before the end of the year, we will look at absolutely everything with a view to making legislative and non-legislative changes. I will certainly take on board the points that she has made. In response to her wider point, I agree that co-ops play an extremely important part in the dynamism of our economy. I want to remove all barriers that prevent them from competing on a level playing field and from growing.