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Social Enterprise

Volume 498: debated on Wednesday 28 October 2009

I am very pleased to answer this question in the run-up to social enterprise day on 19 November, which is a celebration of the 62,000 social enterprises in the UK. Last week, I met 13 social enterprise ambassadors at the restaurant Fifteen, itself a thriving social enterprise, and they are some of the most inspiring social entrepreneurs in the country, together employing more than 1,400 people. Social enterprises contribute about £24 billion to the economy each year and employ 800,000 people. It is clear that at their best social enterprises contribute to a stronger economy and a fairer society.

Would the Government consider introducing a community reinvestment Bill to further support social enterprise?

One of things that the Government need to look at—and are doing so—is how to get more capital investment into social enterprises. My hon. Friend may be aware that we have recently concluded our consultation on the creation of a social investment wholesale bank. Consultation closed on 7 October and we are looking at the responses to see how we can best ensure that we get more capital investment into social enterprise, to the benefit of the economy and the community as a whole.

Will the Minister do her best to encourage Departments, and especially the Government offices for the regions, to participate in social enterprise organisations locally, some of which are working very hard to find practical answers to problems such as transport in rural areas? Will they also work with organisations such as Policy Connect, which is based in this House?

It is very good when the Government offices for the regions can co-operate with social enterprises. Indeed, I recently visited Hackney transport social enterprise, which is doing tremendous work for the local community. The public are now looking for something different from their business enterprises—social and environmental concern instead of just the financial bottom line. It is important for government at all levels to co-operate and work with social enterprise—[Interruption.]

Order. The hon. Members for West Chelmsford (Mr. Burns) and for Reigate (Mr. Blunt) have been conducting an animated conversation for several minutes. I feel sure that that conversation has now been concluded.

My hon. Friend will know that Community Ventures is a social enterprise that serves my constituency very well. Is her Department considering advising social enterprises to put social clauses into public contracting, so that training opportunities and employment regeneration are added to social contracts?

My hon. Friend makes an important point, which is similar to the point that I made a moment ago about there being more to a social enterprise than the financial bottom line. There is a social return on the investment. I can tell her that yesterday the second phase of the Government’s national programme for third sector commissioners began, and it is specifically looking at how to address social issues and how to provide benefit to the public through public service procurement. The short answer is yes.

I refer the hon. Gentleman to my answer a moment ago, but I can also assure him that the Government—