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Co-operatives and Mutuals

Volume 564: debated on Wednesday 19 June 2013

The Government are committed to supporting public service mutuals in providing public services. We know that mutuals can bring significant efficiencies that benefit not only public service users and the taxpayer, but the staff who form them. Our mutuals support programme is tracking more than 120 emerging and established public service mutuals across 13 different sectors.

Does my right hon. Friend share my view that, in line with the original Rochdale principles, co-operatives should be politically neutral and not make contributions to political parties?

I hear what my hon. Friend, who is extremely knowledgeable on this topic, says. He is a passionate supporter of mutuals and co-operatives, and his point deserves further scrutiny and study.

The Minister talks about supporting mutuals. What is he doing actively to encourage them to apply for public services, especially at year-end, when they do not give large bonuses to executive and non-executive directors?

I do not entirely see the connection between those two phenomena. We actively encourage groups of public sector workers to come together to form new entities that continue to deliver public services, but on a contractual basis, not a line-managed, bureaucratic basis. I am delighted to tell the hon. Gentleman that there is a lot of interest in the public sector. Many entrepreneurial leaders are looking for the opportunity to lead the service in an innovative and less-restricted way.

Does my right hon. Friend agree that the current difficulties at the Co-operative bank should in no way deflect the Government from the coalition agreement to promote greater corporate diversity in Britain?

I can reassure my hon. Friend that those difficulties have in no way deflected us from that commitment. Indeed, there is a growing interest in the public sector in the process of mutualising, which can take many forms and is to be encouraged.

On the Government’s support of co-operatives and mutuals, what discussions have taken place with colleagues in the Department of Energy and Climate Change on support for co-operative and mutual energy in the Energy Bill?

I am not aware of particular discussions, but I will pursue the hon. Gentleman’s point.