New Bill to benefit Co-operatives in Parliament
James Wright is Policy Officer at Co-operatives UK. In this guest blog, he describes the newly proposed Co-operative and Community Benefit Societies (Environmentally Sustainable Investment) Bill and what it might mean for co-operatives in the UK.
See this page in: Cymraeg
If we want more people to choose a co-op option for their business, then one thing we need to do is ensure co-op law is as ‘user-friendly’ as possible.
When it comes to legal reform, our top priority is for co-operative societies to have the option of legally guaranteeing that their ‘common capital’ will remain ‘indivisible’, over the life of the business and after. Right now, they can’t do this and it’s becoming a problem.
Having at least some capital that is held in common and so cannot be distributed among members is a fundamental feature of most co-ops. Most co-operative societies have rules stipulating variations of this.
But having some kind of statutory ‘asset lock’ which commits capital surplus to mutual and social purpose is increasingly a must in many parts of our social economy.
So it’s a damaging anomaly that co-operative societies in the UK can’t give their common capital statutory status and must rely instead on rules-based provisions, which are all too easily undone or ignored. And worse still, it means the co-operative society form is significantly less useful in the modern social economy than it would otherwise be, with too many founders forced to make suboptimal choices at incorporation.
So we’re delighted that Anna McMorrin MP has chosen to take forward a Private Members’ Bill which works towards giving co-operative societies a statutory option, alongside changes to enable new equity raising and to protect co-operative and social purpose.
Most Private Members’ Bills don’t make it into law. Anna’s has a better chance than most because her name was drawn early in a special ballot, which means her Bill is guaranteed crucial time on the Parliamentary agenda.
MPs and the UK government will need to be convinced that the Bill’s provisions would benefit co-ops and enjoy widespread support, if it’s to have any chance of becoming law. We’ve got evidence on both counts and are in a position to mobilize supporters in the sector if needs be.
The next stage for Anna’s Private Members’ Bill, Second Reading, is scheduled to take place on Friday 27 March 2020. At this point the Bill will have been published in full and it will be debated in the chamber before being put to a vote. If MPs vote it through, it will then proceed to Committee.
You can sign up for Co-operatives UK’s updates on this Bill here: https://www.uk.coop/new-co-ops-bill-parliament-great-people-and-planet.
James Wright is Policy Officer at Co-operatives UK.