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I thank the hon. Member for Christchurch (Mr. Chope) for mentioning the fact that I received the beer drinker's champion award this week from the Campaign for Real Ale. I got it not for the number of pints that I drank, although I have drunk quite a few, but on behalf of the fight for the full and fair pint.
In the context of co-operatives, hon. Members who go to the Stranger's Bar after today's proceedings and take a glass of cheer will be supporting the small brewery co-operatives that sell their products there. I chair the Catering Committee, and the Catering Department sells Fairtrade products that are based on co-operatives. We therefore touch the lives of Members of Parliament and millions of peopleour constituentswhom we represent.
Ms Claire Ward (Watford): Does my hon. Friend agree that we should publicise the fact that we support co-operatives not only through measures such as this Bill, which we hope will get its Second Reading, but through products that we buy in the House of Commons and in our constituencies?
Mr. Turner: Yes, indeed. I certainly endorse that. My hon. Friend captures the flavour of what we are essentially doing here today, representing the people of our constituencies who are involved in all these majestic endeavours.
Today is an important day. It is the best day that I have had in Parliament for many years, because we are doing something practical and real on behalf of the people we represent. William Morris said:
Richard Younger-Ross (Teignbridge): I apologise to the hon. Member for Harrow, West (Mr. Thomas) for not being here when he introduced the Bill earlier, but I have been here for much of the debate. I congratulate him on a very worthy Bill, and I am pleased to be able to speak in the debate.
Sadly, Winstanley was moved away from that first co-operative commune in Walton by the local residents. Perhaps they realised that it would be good real estate at a later date and wanted to move him on. They moved him on to Cobham, and it then took a number of years for the co-operative movement to catch on and take wind, but we should all be pleased that it did. It has a noble and proud history, as all hon. Members appreciate. The question is, where does it go from here?
The hon. Member for Plymouth, Sutton (Linda Gilroy) has already mentioned many of the initiatives in the south-west, and I shall not go back over them. I shall mention a few areas that have touched my life, and tell the House why I think that this is an important Bill. We have seen what happened to the building societies. Most of us were dismayed when a number of mutual societieswhich were started up so that their members could help each otherwent off to become banks, and to join the other side in the battle and make profits for their shareholders rather than for the mutual benefit of all their members. I bitterly remember the day that we lost the battle for my building society. Luckily, I was able to move to another one which has remained a mutual, but I was distressed that something was eating away at a common good, at something that was a power against profit and greed. It was sad to see that power eroded during the 1980s, a period in which greed seemed to dominate.
Many hon. Members have mentioned the well-known social aspects of the mutuals. The hon. Member for Epsom and Ewell (Chris Grayling) talked about Conservative clubs closing, and about carpetbaggers. I am sure that parties have seen clubs close in all areasthey certainly have in my constituencyand the assets being sold off. It is sad, when people have come together over a period of history, to see that history come to an end. Things roll on, however, and I hope that the Bill will help to resurrect and shore up the co-operative movement and the mutual societies.
I hope that people who wish to come together to share profits, and to work together towards a co-operative aim, will benefit from the Bill. I see a battle in society between those who wish to work for the common good and those who wish to work for profit. With globalisation, more and more companies are becoming part of multinationals and fewer and fewer appear to be working for the benefit of their members, so sometimes we seem to be losing that battle. If we are to win and if we are to stop those who aim only for profit, people must come together and we must encourage them to form new co-operative ventures. I hope that they do so when we pass the Bill. It will make them feel more sure that their efforts will not be plunderedI use that word because it is appropriateby those who come after or even during their tenure.
In particular, I hope that people in agriculture, food production and other forms of manufacturing come together to speak out with a united voice against those who wish to gain great power and profit. The Bill should be considered as a means to help redistribute profits. As I promised to be brief, I shall finish on that point.
The Economic Secretary to the Treasury (Ruth Kelly): It is a pleasure to respond to the debate. Let me say how much I enjoyed the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Harrow, West (Mr. Thomas), which was informative, stimulating and entertaining, and congratulate him on his choice of Bill. He has campaigned effectively on these issues and I am sure that he will continue to do so. As several hon. Members made clear, the industrial and provident societies sector is large and diverseit has more than 10 million membersand the co-operative movement is well represented in the House. Many powerful speeches pointed to the sector's achievements and potential for development.
In particular, the potential for regenerating the rural economy was identified by my hon. Friend the Member for Stroud (Mr. Drew) and others. The potential for supporting football's original recreational function through Supporters Direct and supporters clubs was described by my hon. Friend the Member for Leigh (Andy Burnham), whose constituency borders mine, and the sector's potential for providing a venue for marriage proposals was mentioned. I was delighted to hear the anecdote told by my hon. Friend the Member for West Bromwich, West (Mr. Bailey). Most appropriately, the Bill has been described today as offering traditional values in a modern setting.
Adam Price (East Carmarthen and Dinefwr): The Minister has mentioned the excellent work of Supporters Direct. Does she welcome the excellent contribution made by the Swansea City supporters trust, which last night managed to secure the future of league football in Swansea by getting Tony Petty to agree to a sale? Again, an overseas business man with no interest in football was stripping a club of assets. Will the Minister join me in welcoming his agreeing to sell to a consortium led by a former playernot at five to midnight, but at five to elevenand wish the new owners and the trust every success?
I look forward to sharing a pint with my hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, South-East (Mr. Turner) and I congratulate him very much on his recent award. In passing, I ask my hon. Friend the Member for Bolton, North-East (Mr. Crausby) to give my regards to Bolton's Labour clubs, which fulfil a valuable function.
The Government and the mutual movement have a shared interest in an inclusive society in which all have equal access to the means of participating to the best of their ability, in markets as social institutions that confer rights and obligations in equal measure on the participants, and in the exercise of individual liberty in concert with the acknowledgement of mutual responsibilities. That is a powerful position from which to start.
Many Members have referred to the roots of the mutual movement in the work done by the Rochdale pioneers back in 1844. More than 150 years later, those principles still ring true and the mutual movement is still thriving, an important partner as we proceed with our public policy