THE third Co-op-sponsored Bill in a year is set to become law.
Labour MP Mark Todd's Co-operatives and Community Benefit Societies Bill has been approved for Royal Assent after MPs gave it an unopposed third reading in the House of Commons.
The Act will build on Gareth Thomas's Industrial and Provident Societies Act by providing an asset lock for community benefit societies, including housing associations, community childcare facilities, football supporters' trusts and social clubs.
The legislation will prevent de-mutualisation to strip assets, making societies much more secure and ensuring that co-operative structures are better suited to the running of public services.
This will be the first time an asset lock of this kind has been provided for any type of organisation. This crucial provision entrenches the important role of community benefit societies in local economies, ensuring that assets built up over many generations can only be transferred to other organisations with a similar commitment to serving the community.
A further provision will enhance the capacity of co-operative societies to enter into contracts, by clarifying the legal position of third parties entering into substantial transactions with societies, including trading and financing transactions.
The Act also addresses corporate governance issues for co-operatives, in particular by modernising the legal framework around the use of the Seal. In future, societies will be able to execute documents by signature of officers rather than exclusively by Seal, enabling more rapid execution of corporate decisions.
The Co-operative Party, who campaigned to mobilise support for the Bill, say its provisions will place co-op societies on a level playing field with companies and greatly facilitate efficient governance.
Mr Todd, MP for Derbyshire South and a former director of the old Cambridge Society, commented: "This Act will greatly benefit the co-operative sector in the UK and I am immensely proud of its success.
"It has been a pleasure to work with the Co-operative Party, whose expertise in drafting and piloting legislation through Parliament initially attracted me to this Bill."
Co-op Party National Secretary Peter Hunt told the News: "This victory confirms the Party's leadership role in driving the Government's programme of co-operative law reform.
"I pay tribute to the considerable skill of Mark Todd and Lord Dennis Carter, whose experience and wise counsel were invaluable."