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Gillian Merron (Lincoln): I thank my hon. Friend for referring to Lincoln City, which is indeed a pioneering football club. Is he aware that the student union at the University of Lincoln is the first in the country to be run co-operatively, and does he agree that, as the city also has the Lincoln co-operative society, Lincoln is right up front as the city of co-operation?

Mr. Hendrick: I thank my hon. Friend for that intervention, but people in Rochdale might have a problem with her last statement. I was not aware that the student union had been set up as a co-operative, but I applaud its efforts in that respect.

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Historically, the co-operative movement was a fundamental strand in the establishment of the Labour movement and later the Labour party. Over a century on, the Co-operative party is stronger than ever and it is time that we helped to create a more appropriate framework for our old friend to thrive in our modern economy. The view that communities and customers should be the top priority in business has not dated—it is still widely treasured. There is a realisation that it can survive in a practical business environment, and that is very important. This small Bill would considerably benefit the co-operative movement in its work to secure its aim, so I hope that the House will join me in supporting it.

1.22 pm

Linda Gilroy (Plymouth, Sutton): It is a pleasure to follow my hon. Friend the Member for Preston (Mr. Hendrick), whose city has a long and distinguished association with the co-operative movement, as indeed does my own city. I add my voice to the congratulations to my hon. Friend the Member for Harrow, West (Mr. Thomas) on giving us all an opportunity to celebrate our rich heritage throughout the country. Other colleagues have contributed interesting stories about their communities, and I am pleased to join fellow Co-operative Members in declaring that I am one of that 29-strong group and, indeed, vice-chair of the group for this year.

In this harmonious debate, we have a chance to celebrate the rich range of industrial, provident and mutual models in this country. Those organisations deserve the protection against carpetbagging offered by the Bill. Much has been said about the important contribution of co-operatives and mutuals. My hon. Friends the Members for Corby (Phil Hope) and for Wythenshawe and Sale, East (Paul Goggins) described it as a bottom-up approach. It is a model that brings to the fore the important principle, which the Government greatly value, that rights are accompanied by responsibilities. What could demonstrate that better than co-operative and mutual models?

I want to talk about the rich tradition of co-operation in Plymouth and the importance of the Plymouth and South West co-operative society, which has 122,018 members, including me. It is the successor to the Plymouth Mutual co-operative society, which was founded on 27 December 1859 by six shoemakers, two carpenters, one painter and one mason, who were advised by one of the Rochdale pioneers. According to the history of the co-operative society written by one of our members, the late Bob Briscoe, in its first quarter its turnover was £87 15s 4½d. The society has travelled a long way in the intervening years; its current annual turnover is now £150 million.

The society's value is not just in its turnover and the many small retail shops that it has set up in some of the most difficult and deprived communities in my constituency, but in its deep and broad roots in the community. My hon. Friend the Member for Stroud (Mr. Drew) spoke about that; he has many concerns about agricultural and rural communities, as well as the interaction between the supermarkets and the supply chain, including the foreign supply of fruit and vegetables, which can be produced in this country. I am pleased that the Plymouth and South West co-operative society

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demonstrates the value of the virtuous circle that can be created by co-operative enterprise and has a "buy local, eat local" project.

Lucy Carver recently examined that project for buying manager Tony Stoneman; she found that the society had sold 6,731,654 items from 11 local suppliers, excluding greengrocery items, which constituted more than 37 per cent. of fresh food purchases. The society plays an enormously important role in marketing produce from the south-west peninsula. Another important aspect of the society is its support for community organisations and initiatives; last year, it launched a 13 mile, figure-of-eight walkway through the green spaces and urban environment of Plymouth, paid for by its profits. It has also supported the young consumer of the year award.

Since we were elected in 1997, many good things have happened in my constituency, which, as Members will know, included the poorest ward in England in the 1995 index of local deprivation. A lot has been done as a result of regeneration and the new deal, but I am extremely concerned about the Torridge Way shopping centre in Efford; I cannot say that that part of my constituency has yet turned the corner. The Plymouth and South West co-operative society is looking at that shopping centre and seeing what part it can play, based on its retail operation there, to help that part of my constituency turn the corner.

The society played an important role in Mount Wise in my constituency. In an area where there were no shops before, it opened a shop in an old chapel, which is now very much at the heart of the community, providing not only the usual range of reasonably priced goods to the community in the poorest ward in England, but fresh fruit and vegetables, which are important in deprived areas.

The society therefore plays an exceedingly important role. Its chief executive and secretary, Mr. Douglas Fletcher wrote to me:

The letter goes on to state that

I want to turn to that social regeneration for the one or two minutes that remain to me. My area not only has a very old tradition of co-operation, but one of the finest and most innovative new forms of co-operative and mutual development. It takes the form of a body that used to operate as the Devon and Cornwall Community Co-operative Development Agency, but now calls itself Co-active. The body seeks to deliver expert support through its business advisers and provides research and development programmes assistance for enterprises such as the Wolsely community economic development trust. I think that the trust is the largest organisation of its kind in Europe. Its site has not only incubator facilities for new businesses, but a co-operative trading shop. It is a mutual that is very well rooted in its community. In 1995, a capacity-building programme was delivered to involve local residents. The people who run the trust must come from the local community and are elected from its different parts to operate the trust and the site.

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The Millfields community economic development trust took over buildings in the old Royal Navy hospital in Plymouth for a similar purpose. After the Jaeger factory closed, with the loss of several hundred jobs, the trust took on that building and is using the facilities there to develop incubator space with support from business advisers to help new small businesses to get going. That work has been recognised by the Minister for E–Commerce and Competitiveness, my hon. Friend the Member for Paisley, South (Mr. Alexander), who is responsible for the new social enterprise unit. He paid tribute to the Get Up and Go community nursery, which operates on the Wolsely development trust site, for being very innovative in a recent speech addressed to Social Enterprise London. The Wolsely economic development trust, which is at the very forefront of regeneration work, explained to London its track record and expressed its hope that others could share and learn from some of the lessons that it had learned in the past 10 years.

In conclusion, I commend the Bill to the House. I hope that my hon. Friend the Economic Secretary will recognise in co-operatives and our desire to protect them in the ways outlined in the Bill the virtuous economic circle that can be created in our communities and cities. In the far south-west peninsula, that circle plays a very important part in recycling money within the area, rather than, like some plcs, syphoning it off to who knows where. She will probably remember the Chancellor posing the principles of post neo-classic endogenous growth theory with symbiotic relationships. I can tell her that in Plymouth, we have, through Co-active, the local community version of those principles: the integrated community economic development strategy. I look forward to hearing what she has to say and wish the Bill a fair wind.

1.34 pm

Mr. Dennis Turner (Wolverhampton, South-East): As a long-serving member of the Co-operative parliamentary group, I thank my hon. Friend the Member for Harrow, West (Mr. Thomas) for taking the opportunity to promote this important Bill having won the ballot for private Members' Bills.

You will know the old song "This is My Lovely Day", Madam Deputy Speaker. For me, today is our lovely day. We have tried for many years to introduce a reforming, modernising measure that will go to the hearts of millions of people in this country and many ethical, mutual, co-operative organisations. Many people will be influenced and affected by our actions today.

Hundreds and thousands of people travel from Birmingham International, East Midlands and Manchester airports to go on their holidays and find the sun through Travel West Midlands, a wonderful part of our co-operative movement. Staffordshire building society, which is based in the west midlands, provides an excellent service for thousands of people in my area and throughout the west midlands.

I am a member of a co-operative that is based on a sports and social club that we formed 20 years ago. Many people come to the club: senior citizens come for their lunches; others come for the darts, dominoes and crib. They come for presentations, social events and happy events in people's lives in our community.

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