Labour/Co-op MP Gareth Thomas has criticised Monday’s Queen’s Speech, which saw the Boris Johnson government set out its policy programme, for containing no measures to grow the UK co-op movement.
During the House of Commons debate on the speech, on 14 October, he said: “I am disappointed, but not entirely surprised, to see once again nothing in a Queen’s Speech about how the government might want to help the co-operative movement expand.
“There is nothing to help energy co-operatives expand to grow the usage of renewable energy still further, which is essential if we are to get our emissions down quicker. There is nothing to help housing co-operatives expand to tackle the housing crisis, particularly, but not exclusively, in London. There is nothing to help co-operative schools either.”
Pointing to red tape which hampers the expansion of credit unions, Mr Thomas added: “I share the disappointment of the co-op movement that there is no commitment in the Queen’s Speech to bring forward as a matter of urgency legislation to reform the rules on credit unions.”
Some of the legislation governing co-ops dates back to the Victorian era and urgently needs reform, he said.
“It is the biggest co-op businesses that struggle on occasion to get access to the level of capital that they need to expand,” he added. “Withdrawable shares could help the biggest co-ops, such as the Co-op Group, to expand and go to the capital markets without their co-operative status being threatened.
“Such legislation has been successfully introduced in Australia, and I hope that the Treasury will move forward on this issue in the next 12 months.”
He also called for the government to bring in new legislation to tackle violence against store workers – which has prompted a campaign involving the Co-op Party, Co-op Group and trade unions.