25 Nov 2011 : Column 571

25 Nov 2011 : Column 571

House of Commons

Friday 25 November 2011

The House met at half-past Nine o’clock


[Mr Speaker in the Chair]

Mr Philip Hollobone (Kettering) (Con): I beg to move, That the House sit in private.

Question put forthwith (Standing Order No. 163).

The House divided:

Ayes 1, Noes 35.

Division No. 402]

[9.34 am


Rees-Mogg, Jacob

Tellers for the Ayes:

Mr Peter Bone and

Mr Philip Hollobone


Baker, Norman

Benyon, Richard

Berger, Luciana

Blears, rh Hazel

Brokenshire, James

Bruce, Fiona

Burstow, Paul

Clark, rh Greg

Coffey, Dr Thérèse

Crabb, Stephen

Djanogly, Mr Jonathan

Dunne, Mr Philip

Field, Mark

Fitzpatrick, Jim

Freer, Mike

Hamilton, Mr David

Harris, Rebecca

Heath, Mr David

Hendry, Charles

Hurd, Mr Nick

Irranca-Davies, Huw

Johnson, Diana

Morgan, Nicky

Munt, Tessa

Murray, Ian

Newmark, Mr Brooks

Phillips, Stephen

Randall, rh Mr John

Seabeck, Alison

Smith, Miss Chloe

Spellar, rh Mr John

Teather, Sarah

Thomas, Mr Gareth

Webb, Steve

White, Chris

Tellers for the Noes:

Richard Fuller and

Mr David Nuttall

Question accordingly negatived.

9.47 am

Mr Peter Bone (Wellingborough) (Con): On a point of order, Mr Speaker. The Deputy Prime Minister has been expounding in the media today a new Government policy in a major announcement of billions of pounds being spent on getting people into work. There is allegedly a written statement, but I have not seen it and it was not available to Parliament at the start of the day. It seems to me, Mr Speaker, that that announcement should have been made first in the House and not to the media. Is there any further action I can take on this point?

Mr Speaker: I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his point of order. I have seen no such written ministerial statement and at the time I came into the Chamber none was available. I note what the hon. Gentleman has said about media coverage and I reiterate the point I have repeatedly made from the Chair: statements of Government policy should be made first to the House of Commons. That is an obligation upon all Ministers, without exception. The hon. Gentleman is an experienced parliamentary hand and he will know that avenues are open to him to pursue this matter—if not today, on subsequent days. I hope that is clear and helpful.

25 Nov 2011 : Column 572

Public Services (Social Value) Bill

Consideration of Bill, as amended in the Public Bill Committee.

New Clause 1

National social enterprise strategy

‘(1) The Secretary of State must prepare and publish a document setting out a strategy for the promotion by government departments of engagement in social enterprise in England (the “national social enterprise strategy”).

(2) The national social enterprise strategy must be designed with a view to promoting participation in its implementation by persons or bodies appearing to the Secretary of State to be representative of those engaged in social enterprise and by the public, whether by monitoring its effectiveness or otherwise.

(3) The Secretary of State may review the national social enterprise strategy and prepare and publish a new strategy to replace a previous national social enterprise strategy.

(4) In preparing the national social enterprise strategy or a new strategy, the Secretary of State must—

(a) consult such persons or bodies appearing to the Secretary of State to be representative of those engaged in social enterprise as the Secretary of State considers appropriate; and

(b) carry out such public consultation as the Secretary of State considers appropriate.

(5) For the purposes of this section a person or body is engaged in social enterprise if—

(a) the person or body is carrying on a business;

(b) the business’s activities are being carried on primarily for a purpose that promotes or improves the social or environmental well-being of the United Kingdom, whether the purpose is pursued in relation to all or any part of the United Kingdom or all or any of the persons resident or present in it;

(c) the greater part of any profits for distribution is applied for such a purpose;

(d) the business is majority-owned and controlled in the interests of improving the social or environmental well-being of the United Kingdom;

(6) The Secretary of State shall by regulations made by statutory instrument set out criteria for establishing whether a business falls within the definition in subsection (5)(d) above.’.—(Mr Thomas.)

Brought up, and read the First time .

9.49 am

Mr Gareth Thomas (Harrow West) (Lab/Co-op): I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time.

Mr Speaker: With this it will be convenient to discuss the following:

New clause 2—Local authority strategies

'(1) Section 4 of the Local Government Act 2000 (strategies for promoting wellbeing) is amended as follows.

(2) After subsection (1) insert—

“(lA) A local authority’s sustainable community strategy must include—

(a) their proposals in connection with promoting engagement in social enterprise in their area; and

(b) a statement of measures proposed for enabling persons or bodies engaged in social enterprise in their area and such other persons as they consider appropriate to participate in the implementation of the proposals referred to in paragraph (a).”.

(3) After subsection (4) insert—

“(4A) For the purposes of this section a person or body is engaged in social enterprise if—

(a) the person or body is carrying on a business;

25 Nov 2011 : Column 573

(b) the business’s activities are being carried on primarily for a purpose that promotes or improves the social or environmental wellbeing of the United Kingdom, whether the purpose is pursued in relation to all or any part of the United Kingdom or all or any of the persons resident or present in it; and

(c) the greater part of any profits for distribution is applied for such a purpose.’”.

New clause 3—Annual report to parliament—

'(1) The Secretary of State must prepare and publish an annual report on the operation of the Government’s strategy for social enterprises in the preceding year and must lay a copy of the report before Parliament.

(2) The Secretary of State must, during the preparation of each report, consult—

(a) the National Audit Office;

(b) the Charity Commission;

(c) Co-ops UK;

(d) the National Council for Voluntary Organisations;

(e) Social Enterprise UK;

(f) the Association for Chief Executives in Voluntary Organisations;

(g) the Office for National Statistics; and

(h) such other organisations or persons as the Secretary of State considers appropriate.

(3) Each report must include statistics on the performance of social enterprises.’.

Amendment 1, in clause 1, page 1, line 3 after first ‘of’, insert ‘goods and’.

Amendment 2, in clause 4, page 3, line 36, after ‘Services (’, insert ‘Social Enterprise and’.

Amendment 3, in title, line 1, at beginning insert—

‘To require the Secretary of State and local authorities to publish strategies in connection with promoting social enterprise; to enable communities to participate in the formulation and implementation of those strategies;’.

Amendment 4, in title, line 1, leave out from ‘Require’ to ‘and’ in line 2 and insert

‘that public sector contracts include provisions relating to social outcomes and social value;’.

Mr Thomas: I congratulate the hon. Member for Warwick and Leamington (Chris White) not only on his choice of subject but on the way in which he has steered the Bill through the House thus far.

The Opposition want a comprehensive change programme to boost social enterprise further. I hope to set out this morning a more ambitious approach to the Bill than the Government and the Minister, sadly, have been willing to countenance so far, but before I do so let me explain how my amendments seek to build on some of the issues raised in Committee.

In new clause 1, I have sought to respond to the appetite shown in Committee for more certainty about the definition of social enterprises, and in particular how an asset lock might be worked into the Bill. In new clause 3, I have sought to provide a clear means of encouraging the Government to be accountable for their work in social enterprises. Amendment 1 offers the Minister an opportunity to clarify the arguments that he used in Committee to justify the limited scope of the Bill in relation to commissioning.

In Committee, we had an interesting discussion about the merits or otherwise of a national strategy for social enterprise. I fear that the absence of a clear requirement

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for such a strategy poses the risk of a loss of momentum behind the sector when ministerial attention is diverted, as it inevitably will be. An example is the point of order on which you ruled earlier, Mr Speaker. No doubt ministerial attention has been diverted, quite rightly, to youth unemployment and the return of the future jobs fund in another guise. There is a risk that other issues might also divert Ministers’ attention from their commitments to social enterprises in the future, and a clear strategy would help to avoid any such loss of focus and interest.

I fear that things that could and should be done by other Whitehall Departments to help social enterprises cannot be done without a requirement for a cross-Whitehall strategy. I fear, too, that some parts of the country will miss out, and that many communities that could and should benefit from what social enterprise can offer will not be able do so because of the absence of a clear strategy framework for Whitehall’s work.

The Minister claimed in Committee that there was a strategy for social enterprise, and cited social investment as one part of that strategy. I must point out gently to him that he did not seem to be willing to give many more such examples. He did, however, go on to say that the Cabinet Office was working with the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, suggesting that that somehow proved that the whole of Whitehall was united behind work for social enterprises.

I believe that a strategy for social enterprise should touch on a series of issues. Access to finance is clearly a key issue, as are access to commissioning opportunities and the role that social enterprises can play in assisting the process of modernising our public services, making them more flexible and personal. Access to advice and support for fledgling or “wannabe” social enterprises is clearly a further aspect of such a strategy. Ongoing support and representation from—ghastly phrase—infrastructure organisations to help social enterprises to share best practice, to solve legal problems that they may face, or to tackle difficult human resource issues would also be worthy of inclusion.

A strategy could explore the scope for more work with, or indeed instead of, the private sector. It could also consider issues relating to coverage: which communities are likely to need more help to enable more social enterprises to emerge, and what should that help look like in practice? It could outline the role not only of other Whitehall Departments but non-Whitehall players in developing the Government’s endeavours to help social enterprise.

Hazel Blears (Salford and Eccles) (Lab): Does my hon. Friend share my regret that the original Bill, which was genuinely about social enterprise, has been reduced—as a result of, I believe, arguments within the Government—to a Bill that simply talks about the very minimal bit of social value that is left, rather than giving what could have been a really good boost to the social enterprise sector?

Mr Thomas: My right hon. Friend makes an important point. The Bill represents a huge missed opportunity for the Government to embrace the other elements of the Bill. This is a Government who made much of their commitment to the big society, yet here is, arguably, a big society Bill that they have—as my right hon. Friend

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rightly says—gutted. The absence today of Conservative Members who might have been present to defend and advocate this big society Bill is, I fear, further testimony to the lack of support for it in practice.

Let me now deal with some of the issues relating to access to money that might constitute part of a national strategy.

Mr David Nuttall (Bury North) (Con): On the subject of money, may I ask whether the hon. Gentleman has assessed the possible cost of producing a national strategy?

Mr Thomas: I have not, but the explanatory notes prepared by the hon. Member for Warwick and Leamington for Second Reading contained an assessment of the cost, which, if I remember rightly, was approximately £41,000.

Many social enterprises clearly have a strong trading and enterprise ethos, but most have required start-up finance or transitional funds, or funds for specialist advice. For voluntary sector organisations wishing to become social enterprises, strong grant income can help to provide a cushion allowing a business model to be properly developed. If there is no clear, thought-through process to make appropriate funding available, the huge cuts in Government funding for the third sector may not only put at risk the services provided by voluntary and civil society groups on which so many of our constituents rely, but hold back the growth of the social enterprise sector.

It is, I would gently suggest, not enough for the Government to talk about a strategy for social investment. I do not doubt the Minister’s commitment to growing the market for social finance, and the Government’s interest in social impact bonds and support for the big society bank—both Labour ideas—are welcome, but when those initiatives are set against the scale of the cuts in direct funding from national Government and, as a result, local government, there seems to be little hope that the social finance market will have grown sufficiently robust to replace the estimated £3.2 billion—possibly as much as £5.1 billion—of direct funding that will be lost. That estimate of the potentially huge loss to the third sector over the coming comprehensive spending review period was provided by the independent analysts New Philanthropy Capital.

Richard Fuller (Bedford) (Con): I am listening to the hon. Gentleman’s speech with great interest. He is making a point not only about the need for a strategy, but about the impact of cuts in the near term. Does he agree that, in essence, the Bill in its present form retains the opportunity to support social enterprises, and that the Social Enterprise Coalition and other leaders of social enterprises support it?

Mr Thomas: The hon. Gentleman makes a valid point when he says that the Bill, although its scope is substantially restricted, offers some opportunity for progress to be made in support of social enterprises. The Opposition welcome and support that, but, as my right hon. Friend said, this Bill provided the Government with an opportunity to be far more ambitious in scope, and it is a tragedy that the Minister has not been able to persuade his colleagues in Government to support the more far-reaching measures.

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New Philanthropy Capital has assessed the funding situation facing the voluntary sector in the coming years. It noted how the scale of the cuts would be far too big for public foundations or other forms of philanthropy to be able to compensate for, and also noted that charities funded by local authorities, which will bear particularly heavy cuts, are at great risk. The Minister will not, I suspect, be surprised by these difficulties facing the third sector, especially those resulting from the Government’s cuts on local authorities. This is yet another example of their cutting public spending too far, too fast. I am sure the Minister will know about the cuts at Hillingdon Community Transport, Hillingdon Law Centre, Hillingdon Arts Association and Hillingdon Women’s Centre. Those are just a few examples of local organisations that are being affected by the coalition’s economic strategy.

Social enterprises that trade directly with the public are all too aware of the extremely difficult trading environment on the high street. The latest news, which came out today, is that Sir Philip Green is having to axe a whole series of shops. That proves the error of the Government’s economic strategy, and if his business is facing such difficulties, it is unsurprising that social enterprises that trade with the public are also experiencing falling incomes. The crisis facing the economy, and therefore the circumstances facing social enterprises trading with the public, are yet another reason why the Chancellor should consider introducing a temporary cut in VAT and adopting the plan B proposed by the shadow Chancellor, my right hon. Friend the Member for Morley and Outwood (Ed Balls).

10 am

New Philanthropy Capital also noted concerns for the third sector in respect of threats to cash flow from changes to commissioning and contracting arrangements. It points out that the shift of responsibility for commissioning from primary care trusts to GPs will create uncertainty, and the shift to payment by results could result in many social enterprises being paid for services in arrears, thereby putting strain on their cash flow. Access to grants will be important in future, and a clear, sensible, properly prepared strategy could help to ensure resources are used appropriately to support the Government’s objective of encouraging more social enterprises to flourish.

The second element of our proposed Government strategy to support social enterprises would be a focus on commissioning. Properly organised commissioning, with well-designed contracts and commissioners who understand the sector, could be a very important element in a successful strategy to develop the social enterprise sector.

Apart from the provision of a small capacity-building pot, it is unclear whether the Government have thought through how to get the well-trained commissioners they need, or how to get the support to the social enterprise sector that will be needed if social enterprises are to benefit from commissioning opportunities in the future. Claire Dove, chair of the Social Enterprise Coalition, said in evidence to the Public Administration Committee that uncertainty in commissioning was a key concern of the sector.

The Work programme is a classic example of a poorly designed commissioning process. The Minister for the Cabinet Office and Paymaster General claimed that 35% to 40% of the value of the contracts under the

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Work programme would go to third sector organisations such as social enterprises. That has not happened so far. Indeed, a recent report by the National Council for Voluntary Organisations, which represents more than 8,500 social enterprises, charities and voluntary groups, highlighted its members’ concerns about commissioning under the Work programme and the referrals that they were, or were not, getting. It stated:

“There have been a number of CSOs who are operating as ‘specialist’ or ‘tier 2’ providers that have not yet received any Work Programme referrals”.

It also noted wider concerns about the structure of the Work programme:

“While one of civil society’s strengths lies in specialist support for harder to reach customers, confining CSOs to these smaller contracts could compromise the long-term financial resilience of some organisations and their capacity to participate in future service delivery.”

In August and September the Association of Chief Executives of Voluntary Organisations conducted a survey of 155 third sector organisations that are Work programme subcontractors. It found that many had not yet received any referrals. The London Voluntary Service Council reported similar findings in its recent survey. It said the vast majority of specialist tier 2 providers in London had had no Work programme customers. The lack of a proper strategic framework for the commissioning of services from social enterprises has resulted in a poorly designed programme that is not likely to lead to the desired benefits to social enterprises.

This is of concern not only to Opposition Members. Baroness Stedman-Scott is, I understand, a Conservative peer, but she raised concerns in an article that appeared in The Guardian. She is chief executive of the welfare-to-work charity, Tomorrow’s People. It is having to close three offices, lay off a considerable number of staff—almost 30% of its work force—and halve the number of unemployed people it helps get into work each year from the current figure of 8,000, all because of fall-out from the Government’s Work programme.

The Government have not properly thought through how to make commissioning work for social enterprises and the third sector. They must do so. If the Work programme examples I have given have not convinced Members of that, let me also give examples involving the national health service, such as the commissioning experience of Central Surrey Health, an employee-owned organisation that was awarded the first ever big society award by the Prime Minister. The Minister for the Cabinet Office and Paymaster General declared it to be a classic example of the big society in action, yet in September it was announced that Central Surrey Health had lost out on a major NHS contract to a private company, Assura Medical Ltd, which is owned by Virgin Healthcare. I understand the Minister answering today’s debate has said since our Committee discussions that that was “just tough”, and that it was in the nature of competitive tendering, although I also understand he later accepted that there is not yet a genuinely level playing field for third sector organisations such as social enterprises wanting to compete with private sector organisations.

Hazel Blears: I wonder whether my hon. Friend shares the following concerns, particularly in respect of the national health service. If it is truly to become the

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biggest social enterprise in the world, as the Secretary of State for Health has said, there needs to be a lock on public sector assets that have been paid for by taxpayers, so that they are not transitioned into the private sector. That has already happened in some instances. I have made that point to the Minister on several occasions, and I am very concerned that public assets will be transferred to private companies, making private profit for people in the private sector.

Mr Thomas: I entirely agree with my right hon. Friend. It is precisely because of the concern she has raised on this issue—and the support she received, including from Members of the coalition parties, in Committee—that I propose a revised definition of social enterprise in this new clause. It seeks to provide in legislation the asset lock facility. Central Surrey Health is owned by the nurses and managers who work in it, and it was the first employee-owned spin-out from the national health service—that occurred back in 2006, under the Labour Government. It is a classic employee mutual. The Cabinet Office has confirmed that Central Surrey Health has delivered substantial improvements in quality and efficiency in the services provided. However, it would appear that quality counted for far less in the tendering exercise than the ability to raise capital.

The chief executive of Social Enterprise UK, Peter Holbrook, put it as follows:

“If Central Surrey Health, the government’s flagship mutual social enterprise, which has demonstrated considerable success in transforming health services, reducing waiting times and increasing productivity can’t win”—

in a commissioning contract process—

“what does this say for the future of the mutuals agenda?”

He went on to say:

“Public sector workers will be understandably anxious about spinning out from the NHS and setting up a social enterprise on the back of this news. The government needs to take action to reassure them that they will not be operating in markets weighted against them.”

The thought, consultation and preparation required in a proper strategic review of how to support social enterprises might begin to give those public sector workers the confidence they need to be part of employee spin-outs.

The sense that nobody has a proper joined-up grip of how to transform commissioning has perhaps left many public sector workers sadly sceptical about being part of creating an employee mutual. The Minister for the Cabinet Office and Paymaster General has bravely pledged that by 2015 the country will have 1 million more public sector workers in mutuals. I have tabled parliamentary questions asking each Department how many applications Ministers have received from employees to run services for which their Department is directly responsible. Sadly, the overwhelming majority of Departments had received absolutely none.

A strategy for social enterprises could also explore where and how social enterprises can get the advice, the support and even the training that they need in commissioning, and in the legal and human resources issues that they would face, for example, in respect of TUPE. Where do social enterprises go for that support now? Clearly they can go to the excellent Social Enterprise UK or Co-operatives UK, but are they well enough funded for the scale of the Government’s future ambitions? I pose that question in the context of Rise, the south-west

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social enterprise agency, having decided to close its doors because of a lack of income. As a result, there is understandable concern that Ministers have not thought through the external support required to grow the social enterprise sector. Social Enterprise UK has suggested that there should be more social enterprise hubs offering a combination of business support, shared work space and peer support to support the growth of the sector. That is a very interesting idea, and if there were to be a proper strategy, the Government could explore it in more detail.

What thought have the Government given to encouraging the growth of social enterprises to take on tasks that have traditionally been the preserve of the private sector, for example, in the areas of finance or energy? The Government want social enterprises to help them to roll back the state, but have they thought through the opportunities for social enterprises to do more in those traditional private sector areas? Let me give one example. Access to loans and the level of personal debt have been issues of huge concern across the House. Social enterprises that do not need to fund profits for shareholders could offer cheaper loans and could do so in areas where traditional businesses might not operate. Credit unions are a powerful example of the potential in that area. The London Mutual Credit Union, which I believe operates in Southwark and Lambeth, wants to offer a cheaper payday loan in competition with similar private sector products and it would charge far less than the very high rates of interest that private sector payday lenders currently offer.

10.15 am

Similarly, we need to see an increase in access to renewable energy. Why can such energy not be generated by social enterprises, with the profits reinvested into the very communities that are home to the sources of such energy? Baywind Energy in the Lake district is one such social enterprise—it is a co-operative. The Government could use the opportunity of a national strategy to set out how they can support, and even whether they would encourage, the growth of social enterprises in areas where big energy and big finance have previously operated largely unchallenged. A proper strategic look at the opportunities for social enterprises outside the public sector might identify new areas of opportunity that well-designed assistance from Government might help to come to fruition.

The National Institute of Adult Continuing Education recently produced a sensible and thought-provoking analysis of the role of education and learning in the big society. It makes the perfectly reasonable point that structural inequalities arising from social class, income levels and job status or prospects, and from issues relating to age, gender, race, faith and disability, can present complex barriers to participation in civil society. It also says that inequalities in skills can have a negative impact on levels of civic participation and, thus, on the readiness of some to play a part in forming social enterprises. NIACE highlights the learning needs of public sector employees who want to form a spin-out enterprise, saying that they will need expertise in service design or in understanding different business models. The question that NIACE’s work raises is: where will the learning come from to meet those needs? Where will the support come from to meet those educational challenges?

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Again, a proper, well-thought-through strategy might consider how to ensure that all communities are covered and monitored, and that the characteristics of areas and authorities where fewer social enterprises were being developed were thought about, understood and considered for further support. A strategy would also think through what roles other non-Whitehall players could play in the Government’s ambition for more social enterprises. Further education colleges could perhaps play a role in meeting the training needs that I have just described. Key voluntary sector bodies could perhaps offer further support, and NHS trusts, foundation trusts and mutuals that are already part of the third sector in that sense could certainly have a role to play in supporting further NHS spin-outs. A strategy could help to lock in those key non-Whitehall players to help grow the social enterprise sector further.

Mike Freer (Finchley and Golders Green) (Con): Before we move off new clause 1, may I draw the House’s attention to subsection 5(b), which contains a definition of “social enterprise”? As I read it, Barratt Homes would qualify here, because one could argue that by building houses it is improving social infrastructure; the provision of affordable homes meets the criteria. Section 106 agreements, which provide affordable homes for rent, housing facilities and health facilities, all meet those criteria. In addition, the definition could exclude those seeking to provide fair trade services, because they do not provide or improve social or environmental well-being in the United Kingdom. Will the hon. Gentleman clarify how that provision would actually be applied? Would it not, in fact, open the door to every business?

Mr Thomas: The hon. Gentleman makes an interesting point about Barrett Homes. I draw his attention to subsection 5(d) of new clause 1, which refers to the business being

“majority-owned and controlled in the interests of improving the social or environmental well-being of the United Kingdom.”

Given that Barrett Homes has a substantial shareholder base, it would be difficult to justify in any court of law that it met that definition.

The hon. Gentleman's interesting point relates to Fairtrade, too, and if the Government accept the new clause, a small amendment in the other place could help to ensure that Fairtrade organisations were not excluded. I am open to the idea that his suggestion might work and I gently suggest that it would require the Minister to have a slightly more open mind than he demonstrated in Committee. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will have more luck in encouraging the Minister behind the scenes than I did in Committee.

New clause 2 highlights the key role that local authorities will play in helping to grow the social enterprise sector. Indeed, many of the representations I have received about the Bill stress the importance of local authority commissioners for social enterprises. A requirement for a proper strategic look at the needs of social enterprises in each local authority area would mean that Conservative councils, desperate simply to privatise services, would have to at least to consider the merits of the social enterprise sector. They would do well to look at the example of the many Labour-run co-op councils around the country that are already doing much to encourage social enterprises to develop.

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In Committee, a number of Members noted the danger of strategy documents gathering dust and achieving little, which none of us in the House of Commons would want to see. I accept that that is a risk, and new clause 3 is designed to help minimise that risk. I have been struck by the enthusiasm of many of the organisations included for consultation on new clause 3. New clause 3 requires an annual report to be laid before Parliament with the clear involvement through consultation of a diverse range of representative bodies from the sector and others, such as the National Audit Office, which, if it wanted to do so, could comment effectively on the success or otherwise of the commissioning for social value part of the Bill. The Charity Commission would be able to provide a view on the effectiveness of the Government’s strategy to encourage further charities that are social enterprises, while the Office for National Statistics clearly needs to be encouraged to develop statistics to enable the sector’s strength and performance to be properly understood.

Evidence-based policy making and proper evaluation of what has worked and what has happened so that one can learn from mistakes is surely always a sensible approach for Ministers and Parliament to encourage. The National Council for Voluntary Organisations, the Association of Chief Executives of Voluntary Organisations, Social Enterprise UK and Co-operatives UK are all strong, excellent bodies that could offer insightful comments to help Ministers and, crucially, Parliament, to assess the effectiveness of the Government’s policies for encouraging the sector to grow.

I was struck by the recent Public Administration Committee’s report “Change in Government: the agenda for leadership”, published in September. The Committee noted the Prime Minister’s promise on, among other things,

“re-empowering…communities as part of the ‘Big Society’”.

Two paragraphs on, it stated:

“The principal message of this report is that unless there is a comprehensive change programme for government, there will be little of the real change”

that the Conservative manifesto promised. There are three new clauses before the House today that all offer the chance of that comprehensive change programme for social enterprise to be embedded across Whitehall.

My final point on the three new clauses is to draw the House’s attention to the new suggested definition for the sector. In Committee and in her intervention today, my right hon. Friend the Member for Salford and Eccles (Hazel Blears) rightly raised the issue of an asset lock to protect taxpayers’ assets to stop them simply being transferred to the private sector. In Committee, my right hon. Friend received support for the principle of an asset lock from the hon. Member for Bedford (Richard Fuller) and even from the Minister.

As I said in response to the intervention from the hon. Member for Finchley and Golders Green (Mike Freer), subsection 5(d) of new clause 1 seeks to add a key description to the definition of social enterprise which locks in any public assets transfer to the social enterprise. That matters because the Opposition remember the bus privatisation scandal of the 1980s. The bus industry was transferred lock, stock and barrel from

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public ownership to employee mutuals. It was not that long before the employee mutuals handed themselves over to what had become big corporate bus businesses. Those businesses gained the assets on the cheap while the community and employees lost some of the social value implicit in those public assets, which were taken out as profits of those private businesses to reward their shareholders.

I do not criticise the entrepreneurs who set up and now run the bus industry, as the rules at the time allowed them to do what they did. I am certainly not against privatisation. It has its place, although that is not everywhere and not all the time. If that is the Government’s intention for an industry or a particular part of a sector, however, we should have proper, transparent debate about its merits.

Dr Thérèse Coffey (Suffolk Coastal) (Con): I appreciate the point made by the right hon. Member for Salford and Eccles (Hazel Blears) about how some overage must be retained by the taxpayer when surpluses are gained later, but the hon. Gentleman is rewriting the history a little, I think, of the effect of bus privatisation. I remember that when I was a schoolgirl in Liverpool the introduction of choice and competition meant that we had better services, not worse, as a result of the privatisation.

Mr Thomas: My recollection is slightly different; we remember that in the 1980s there were substantial cuts in bus services after privatisation. Arguably, that is not the point. The key point is whether the assets should remain in the ownership of the public sector or, if not, in that of members of the public who are combining in a social enterprise. The asset lock clause seeks to achieve just that.

Ian Murray (Edinburgh South) (Lab): I thank my hon. Friend for allowing me to make a small contribution on this point. The publicly owned bus company in Edinburgh, Lothian Buses, has won bus operator of the year for five of the past 10 years. It is 90% owned by the city of Edinburgh council and 10% owned by each of the surrounding authorities in the Greater Edinburgh area, including Midlothian, East Lothian and West Lothian. That investment in public buses has made it one of the best bus companies in Europe—holding fares down and being responsive to local communities. I wholeheartedly agree with what my hon. Friend has just said.

Mr Thomas: My hon. Friend makes the interesting point that public sector-run organisations can be extremely successful and often are extremely efficient. The key issue we focused on in Committee is that when assets are transferred out of the public sector we need to ensure that if they have been built up over the years as a result of taxpayer investment, there will be proper protection for the social value that the assets have generated. My revised definition of social enterprise seeks to achieve that objective.

The last amendment on which I want to focus is amendment 1, as the others are all consequential on the three new clauses. Amendment 1 would ensure that the one part of the original Bill to which we know the Government are committed is widened in scope. The

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Government want and the Opposition support further reforms to the public procurement process to encourage the Government in their various forms to take account of wider economic, social and environmental well-being in the commissioning process.

10.30 am

The Bill places a duty on all commissioners in contracting authorities to consider how to improve social, economic and environmental well-being in services-only contracts that have a value above the EU procurement threshold and are at their pre-procurement stage. What was striking about the Minister’s comments in Committee—I say this gently and with affection—was the vagueness of his explanations as to why the pre-procurement stage is the only stage covered and why only services are covered. Let me give the House a flavour of the exchange that took place, provoked largely by my right hon. Friend the Member for Salford and Eccles and my hon. Friend the Member for Stretford and Urmston (Kate Green). The Minister said:

“I stress that it is not the Government’s intention to suggest that there would not be benefits in considering wider value in other forms of contract, but we do not believe that they warrant legislation at this time.”

What he did not or would not explain was why the scope of this key, crucial clause should cover only services—although I accept that goods could be covered if the contract was primarily for services. In Committee, he forced through amendments that prevented the Bill from covering contracts for goods or for work.

Hazel Blears: My hon. Friend will recall that in Committee I raised the example of B4Box, a construction social enterprise that refurbishes houses, does construction work and employs people who have a difficult and troubled employment history. The Minister was unable to satisfy me at that time—and I have heard nothing since—about how that amazing social enterprise could be covered under “social value”, because it deals with goods and services, and sometimes the goods might well exceed the services.

Mr Thomas: My right hon. Friend made a very valid intervention in Committee on exactly this point, and I shall return to that issue in a moment.

The Minister also said in Committee that he wanted to

“strike a proper balance between our”—

the Government’s—

“objective to encourage more commissioners to think about wider values, such as social and environmental values, in their considerations, and our determination to try to streamline the process and to reduce the number of additional duties on commissioners.”––[Official Report, Public Services (Social Enterprise and Social Value) Public Bill Committee, 19 October 2011; c. 19.]

However, he did not explain why it is reasonable to encourage commissioners to think about social value in the context of services but is unreasonable to ask the very same commissioners—as it is usually, although not always, the same commissioners—to think about social value when awarding contracts for work or, crucially, for goods. Will he clarify a little further how he arrived at the view that services could be covered but that contracts for work and for goods should not be covered? Was there a discussion across Government in which he lost out? Perhaps the Secretary of State for Communities

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and Local Government saw this as a step too far. I note that there was a huge gap between the Bill’s Second Reading and Committee, which suggests there was a fairly intense debate behind the scenes in Government—was it on this issue?

If there was not a political problem in Government about the inclusion of contracts for work or for goods, perhaps there was some research basis for suggesting that only contracts for services mattered in legislative terms for encouraging and embedding that concept of social value in commissioners’ thinking. If that is the case, will the Minister enlighten the House as to the research evidence in question? The whole House believes in transparency and I am sure that we all want to see clear, evidence-based policy making. Will he tell us with whom he discussed such research, if it exists? Was it with Social Enterprise UK or with Co-operatives UK, either of which would have been a logical choice? Was it with the Charity Commission or just with officials? It would be helpful to know the thought process he went through in deciding to omit contracts for work and contracts for goods from the scope of the Bill so that not only those of us in the House today but people in the third sector, particularly public sector commissioners, who consider our debate can better understand what is expected.

During our Committee discussions, my hon. Friend the Member for Stretford and Urmston highlighted the issue of books and publications, which are goods, and the fact that publications providing information about the social security system are arguably providing a service. She noted the potential dangers of confusion and difficulty for commissioners with contracts for goods being excluded from the Bill’s scope.

My right hon. Friend the Member for Salford and Eccles raised in Committee the issue of construction, as she has just done, and whether it would count as a service, a good or work. I gently point out to the Minister that he did not answer her question on that. Following our Committee discussions, I have received further representations suggesting that construction contracts could be outside the scope of the Bill. The organisation in question suggests that legal advice might be necessary, but surely the Minister, having had so much advance notice of the concerns of many Committee members on this issue, can clarify the situation today. I have also received representations that if the Bill covered the provision of food, furniture or plants, the civil society organisations bidding for contracts would be more likely to benefit from the socially and environmentally responsible manner in which those goods are or could be produced.

Similarly, I have received representations suggesting that statutory guidance and training are required on how and where social value can legitimately be considered and inserted into tender specifications. Does the Minister intend to bring forward such guidance for commissioners and for those third sector organisations, social enterprises and others that could benefit from this clause? The Bill could achieve so much more. My amendments seek to do justice to our debates in Committee and, above all, to the huge potential that social enterprise and social value offer.

Chris White (Warwick and Leamington) (Con): I thank all those who have enabled the Bill to get to this stage today. It is a rare feat for a Bill to go this far and it

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is a credit to all the political parties and Members who have been involved in the process that so much has been achieved. I again thank the Parliamentary Secretary, Cabinet Office, my hon. Friend the Member for Ruislip, Northwood and Pinner (Mr Hurd) and the hon. Member for Harrow West (Mr Thomas) for their continued support for the principles enshrined in the Bill.

It is wise, at this juncture, to take a step back and remember what has been achieved so far. During the Bill’s progress through Parliament there has been significant national debate on the way that public money is spent. Across the country, local authorities, public sector commissioners, charities, social enterprises, chambers of commerce, community groups and politicians have been seriously considering how we should commission the services we need. In addition, all the political parties have signed up to the principles of social value commissioning. That cross-party support has been one of the most distinctive features of our deliberations on the Bill.

We are very close to being in a position to send out a message to commissioners across the country that we want to do things differently and that although we consider value for money as being important, we mean “value” not in its narrow sense but in its true sense—recognising the importance of social, environmental and economic well-being across our communities and in our lives. This has been welcomed by organisations throughout the country. Only this week a letter from the chief executive of Social Enterprise UK in support of the passing of the Bill was signed by the Association of Chief Executives of Voluntary Organisations, Action with Communities in Rural England, CAN, Children England, Co-operatives UK, Community Matters, Locality, the National Association for Voluntary and Community Action, the National Council for Voluntary Organisations, the National Council for Voluntary Youth Services, the Race Equality Foundation, Urban Forum and Social Firms UK. That is just the tip of the iceberg.

Across our communities, thousands of organisations are looking to us here today to give them a vote of confidence. Yes, we want to see those organisations able to deliver more of our public services. Yes, we want to support them doing the excellent work that they do. Yes, we appreciate the extra miles that they go to support our communities. The biggest show of support that we can give to these organisations is to pass the Bill today.

I appreciate that the hon. Member for Harrow West has only the best of intentions for the Bill. I am pleased that many hon. Members have taken the opportunity to engage seriously and considerately in the process leading up to today, and have sought to do what they can to help make the Bill a success. Every single Member of Parliament who has participated in discussion of the Bill should be proud of the role they have played in ensuring that we do something positive for charities, voluntary organisations, small businesses and social enterprises, but we cannot allow the best to become the enemy of the good.

I recognise that the shadow Minister is seeking to return to some of the clauses that were included in the original Bill, and I sympathise. Of course I want to see, and I believe we all want to see, a more strategic

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approach to supporting social enterprise in local and central Government. I believe, like him and like most of those in the Chamber, that social enterprise is the way forward and that social enterprise is good for our communities, but the best thing we can do for social enterprise is to focus not on reports or strategies, but on social value. Social enterprises, like other organisations, want more than words. They want concrete action, and the Bill has the potential to deliver that action.

In 2006, the then Parliamentary Secretary, the Cabinet Office, now the Leader of the Opposition, the right hon. Member for Doncaster North (Edward Miliband), produced a social enterprise action plan through the Office of the Third Sector. The action plan outlined 24 separate actions that it wanted to achieve, but nearly half of them were never acted on. That is not to say that we should not have strategies and plans, but strategies and plans by themselves do not necessarily lead to actions that benefit those whom they are meant to support. The social enterprise sector, like voluntary and community organisations up and down the country, see the Bill as a positive action that we can take today that will directly help them and potentially help thousands of others in the years ahead.

The social value aspect has always been the most important part of the Bill, and I am sure that all hon. Members recognise how imperative it is that the Bill goes through with that social value section intact. We should also remember that the Bill in no way prevents the Minister, his successors or local authorities from producing their own action plans and strategies to boost social enterprise, and if they were to do so, they would find in me one of their strongest supporters.

We should recognise that a great deal of the ideas generation that the sector needs comes from within it. The Social Enterprise Coalition, as it was before the last general election, produced an excellent manifesto for social enterprise which outlined a range of specific measures that could be taken to support the sector. We should take on board those ideas and encourage central and local government to work with organisations such as Social Enterprise UK and their regional bodies, to keep a constant dialogue going about how to boost the sector. However, if we are faced with the choice of having strategies within the Bill and it failing, or having strategies removed and it passing, I think we all know which is the more important. This is an opportunity that we simply cannot afford to miss.

10.45 am

The Minister made it clear in Committee that he did not support the extension of the Bill to all public sector contracts and wished to limit it to services. I appreciate the reasons that he gave for that, and although I am sure he would join me in wanting all commissioners actively to consider social value in all contracting—goods, services or works—it is better that the Bill covers services rather than nothing. We need to be practical and pragmatic in the way that we consider the legislation. This is one step on a journey, and we should ensure that we take this first positive step before we rush ahead and potentially trip ourselves up.

I know the hon. Member for Harrow West’s reasons for tabling amendments to re-open the scope of the Bill, but I believe that we need to secure and consolidate what we currently have, and leave discussions about

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goods and works for another day, hopefully when we have seen the Bill passed with cross-party support, seen its implementation and are able to look back at its strengths and weaknesses. We are on the cusp of achieving great things here today, and I believe that it would be remiss if the House were to fail to pass the Bill. If we were to throw away the opportunity to transform our procurement system, if we were to fail the various sectors supporting the Bill, and if we were not to honour the trust that they have placed in us to get it through this place, we would create a disappointment that would last for many years.

Hazel Blears: The hon. Gentleman has shown a great deal of courage, determination and tenacity in getting his Bill this far, and he will certainly have my support. He was speaking about the sector being disappointed if the Bill does not pass. Would he admit to a tiny degree of disappointment himself that his original Bill, which I believe was tremendous news for the social enterprise sector, has been reduced in scope, in scale and in effect by the Government?

Chris White: I thank the right hon. Lady for that intervention. I appreciate the tremendous work that she has put into getting the Bill to this stage. All the work that she does with social enterprises is well recognised. Do I feel a touch of disappointment? I am a practical and pragmatic person. I want to see something that works, something to build on. That is why I am making the remarks that I am.

Mr Thomas: Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Chris White: I am about to conclude.

I appreciate that we all have a duty to ensure that the best legislation gets through the House. It is true in this case that some legislation is better than no legislation. This is a chance for us to send a message that when it comes to these important issues, we can all work together, we can prevent politics from getting in the way of good policy and we can be trusted to do the right thing when the time comes. I hope that given the hon. Gentleman’s well-documented support for the principles of the Bill and for the social enterprise, voluntary and community sectors, he will withdraw the amendments today so that we can push forward with much-needed reform of procurement. This is a chance that we may not get again for some time, so let us take it and see the Bill through to the other place and from there, we hope, on to the statute book.

Hazel Blears: I support new clauses 1, 2 and 3 and the amendments tabled by my hon. Friend the Member for Harrow West (Mr Thomas). They are excellent amendments that enable us to debate how we want to see things develop, even if the Bill passes today, as I hope it will, in its current truncated form.

The Bill originally had five clauses. It contained a specific commitment to a national social enterprise strategy and strategies for local authorities. I said on Second Reading, some time ago, that I thought the Bill was small but perfectly formed, and that if it went through in that form, it could have a transformational effect on the commissioning that took place in our public authorities.

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This is no judgment on the hon. Member for Warwick and Leamington (Chris White), but I am afraid that the Bill in its current form represents a huge missed opportunity to drive forward with momentum and impetus the growth and flourishing of the social enterprise sector. The original Bill would have tilted the scales in favour of social enterprise through social value and economic, social and environmental well-being. That would have sent a strong message to public commissioners that the Government really wanted to put their weight behind it as commissioners and would have produced quite a transformational effect.

The hon. Gentleman’s original clauses about a strategy have been deleted. I have no time for strategies that are just pieces of paper, because in my experience harnessing the full power of every Department requires a central spine that says to those Departments, “This is what we want to do. We will hold you to account. We want to see what you have done over the past 12 months and how you can take it forward.” I worry that without such a mechanism the push towards social value commissioning will be taken up only by the best local authorities, which are good at commissioning and understand, particularly in areas such as social care and education, that social value means more impact for the money spent. Good local authorities understand that and are becoming quite complex commissioners. They are commissioning with the users and clients involved and going out to the public and asking what they want to see. That is a holistic approach to commissioning.

However, as I mentioned in Committee, I am worried about the local authorities that lack the capacity, skill and understanding to carry out complex commissioning. The Minister gave some assurance in Committee that there would be support for those local authorities to ensure that they can take this forward. What the Bill says is really good, but I fear that it will fall somewhat short of the transformational effect that the hon. Member for Warwick and Leamington wants to achieve.

The annual report proposed in new clause 3 might be dismissed by some as bureaucracy, but I know from my experience in government that requiring Ministers to come to the Dispatch Box once a year to report on what they have done and what the impact of that has been is a tremendous discipline to ensure that during the rest of the year they ask for regular reports and push for implementation. Unless there is a way of measuring and evaluating the social value achieved through a change in the commissioning process, I do not think that we will see the results that the hon. Gentleman talked about.

The hon. Gentleman says that he is pragmatic and practical, to which I can attest. My view is always to get what one can and then build on it incrementally, and I think that that is probably where he is now. However, I think that he is also quite determined to make a change, so I ask him to press his right hon. and hon. Friends in the coalition Government to say how they will measure social value and assess what difference it has made. In a year’s time, more commissioning will have social value at its heart. What work are we doing to hone in on how we measure social value so that we get a grip on this, because otherwise it will remain a fairly nebulous concept that is very easy for people who do not share the values to wriggle out of? I am sure that that is not what he wants.

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Richard Fuller: The right hon. Lady has a lot of support for the work she has done in her career to support social enterprise. Will she add to her point about urgency and immediacy the fact that social enterprises provide one of the most exceptional ways to enhance productivity in public sector areas? As we are looking for the opportunity to grow our economy, it would be beholden on the Government to make every effort to look at ways in which social enterprises can enhance the productivity in that sector of the economy.

Hazel Blears: I absolutely share the hon. Gentleman’s point. The economy is difficult, there is less money around and public authorities have less resource to spend, so we must ensure that we get as much value as possible out of every pound we spend. The social enterprise sector is often very innovative and comes up with new ways of working and doing business, and that has been one of its particular advantages. There is good innovation in the public sector, but small organisations that have a complete passion for something will often take the system apart, look at how things are currently done, and get more value and productivity.

Mr Nuttall: I entirely agree that there are many instances of innovation in some public sector organisations and in social enterprises, but does the right hon. Lady agree that there are also thousands of examples of innovation in the private sector?

Hazel Blears: I entirely agree. I was about to say that this is not just about the social enterprise sector. One of the good things about the Bill is that it is about social value wherever the commissioning take place, whether in the public sector, the private sector or the voluntary and community sector. There was perhaps a tendency in the past to limit social value to a particular niche in the market for the voluntary and community sector. That sector does fantastic work, but not exclusively. If we can get social value into some of the big private sector organisations, we will see more productivity and a greater impact. A range of large corporate organisations are recognising that doing good is good business. Getting that combination of people using their existing business model to achieve social action and social change is a big movement in this country. We have heard talk about responsible capitalism. There are moments when something happens in society, and I think that we are at one of those moments. Many big organisations have recognised that for their own sustainability—not for charitable purposes, but to do good business—using their procurement, supply chains, product development and investment for social action in communities will be very beneficial. I think that there will be a move from the traditional concept of corporate social responsibility of doing some charitable work once a year to embedding a social action model at the heart of business, small and large, in this country. It is a development that I welcome hugely.

I want to make a few comments about that change. The amendments that my hon. Friend the Member for Harrow West has tabled refer to the definition of social enterprise, which is important, and I hope that the Minister will address it, but I also think that the system currently has barriers to big corporations taking the agenda forward. If we are to have commissioning in the private sector that focuses on social value, we need to

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think about that. A social enterprise called Create opened its doors in my constituency only a week ago. It provides work opportunities for young people and older people who have been homeless. It brings them through a production kitchen to gain catering skills and provides outside catering services. It is a business that describes itself as being “for more than profit”, which I think is an interesting description. It started in Leeds and also operates in Doncaster, Liverpool and, now, Salford. In Leeds it now runs a five-star, top-class restaurant—a little like Jamie Oliver’s Fifteen—which teaches homeless people catering skills. It has a relationship with Morrisons supermarket, and if the people it trains do not go into catering, they are often job-ready and can go into the world of work. That fabulous partnership works for everyone involved and, increasingly, big companies want to work in that way.

Perhaps the Bill can do something to say to the private sector, “Commissioning for social value is good business for you.” John Lewis and the Co-op have done that for decades, but I want us to be able to have a range of different examples that are big in retail, manufacturing and the important sectors of our economy that use the power of their businesses, whether employing former offenders and people who have had difficulties in their lives. That is why I pressed the Minister on whether we can have goods and services, because I think the artificial distinction that this is just about services could limit the ability of the big corporate sector to come into this field. That is something that he might think about remedying if there are legislative opportunities in future.

When I pressed the Minister in Committee on whether there ought to be a definition of social enterprise, I was grateful for his answer:

“The right hon. Lady’s fundamental point is right...there is a spectrum, from pure charitable activity to social businesses. Some blurring of lines might not have mattered until now. She may be right that we have reached the point at which some definition in law is needed.”––[Official Report, Public Services (Social Enterprise and Social Value) Public Bill Committee, 19 October 2011; c. 16.]

He indicated that, in the review of charity law, there were perhaps two legislative opportunities for that.

11 am

Will the Minister confirm that such a definition is still firmly on his agenda? As we expand the sector and enable the NHS to establish a range of social enterprises, a definition is essential—not a definition that is a straitjacket or exclusive, but a definition that makes it clear to people what we mean by a “social enterprise”.

The Social Enterprise Coalition has done a huge amount of work on what that definition might look like. It talks about organisations that have a clear social or environmental mission, generate the majority of their income in trade and, crucially, reinvest the majority of their profits for community benefit, and organisations that are autonomous and independent, majority-owned and controlled in the interests of their social mission, and accountable and transparent. Those criteria would be a good way of putting into legislation any definition that we might end up with.

That would be important, because there is a tendency for people who do not meet those criteria to badge themselves as social enterprises, and many people in the social enterprise sector feel that the brand—if we like—that they have built over the past 30 or 40 years is being tarnished by people who pretend to be social enterprises

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because they think it will get them into the commissioning framework and reward them with contracts. It would be important also for the public to know that when we are commissioning, with their money through public contracts, we are attempting to achieve the maximum social value.

I obviously support the Bill, and I am delighted that we have managed to shepherd it through its various stages. The hon. Member for Warwick and Leamington has done a marvellous job in getting it so far, and for a relatively new Member to have the opportunity, in a private Member’s Bill, to change the law is incredible. I, like him, do not want the best to be the enemy of the good; I want to see whether we can make a start.

But this is only a start, because when we look at the public services White Paper and at transforming public service delivery with many more providers in different organisational shapes and forms, and when we use public money in particular to commission services, we have a responsibility to ensure that at the core of such work is not just the bottom line or the maximisation of profits for the private sector, but the achievement of as much social, economic, and environmental impact as we can. If we do not do that, we will miss a real opportunity for transformative change.

The Bill provides a chink of light, but there is the opportunity to do much more, and I hope that the Minister, in his term of office and in his current post, will be able to take the agenda forward. I genuinely think that he supports what we are trying to achieve, but I know that he will struggle with parts of government which find the whole idea of social value and social enterprise anathema. I well remember 10 years ago, as public health Minister, talking to the NHS and to the Department of Health about involving patients, about social enterprises and about different ways of doing our business, and they looked at me as if I was slightly unhinged.

Those organisations understood the public sector perfectly well, as they had been running a huge monolithic NHS for ever, and they understood the private sector perfectly well, too, because they understood private companies; what they did not get, between those two models, was the range of organisations that over the next 10 years all of us in our own ways would help to bring to the surface.

This Bill is an opportunity to highlight that issue, and I urge the Government to go further and faster—on this agenda, rather than on their economic agenda—[Hon. Members: “Ah!”] On this agenda, they are probably going too slow, and not deep enough! That is not quite as catchy as “too far, too fast”, but on this agenda there is a need to go faster, deeper—madder, truly, whatever! I will support the Minister in whatever he can do to strengthen his arm in those debates, and I hope that he will be encouraging when he responds.

Fiona Bruce (Congleton) (Con): May I, too, pay tribute to my hon. Friend the Member for Warwick and Leamington (Chris White) for the foresight, diligence and perseverance with which he has brought forward the Bill? He has already achieved much by influencing mindsets and stimulating public debate, and those involved in the commissioning of and bidding for public services have already become much more aware of the importance of social value to the process. So, even before the Bill has passed into law, I congratulate him on all that he has achieved.

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In opposing the new clauses proposed by the hon. Member for Harrow West (Mr Thomas) I must say that if a key aim of the Bill is to stimulate and encourage creativity and innovation in the growth of social value and social enterprise, particularly locally, and if, as I think we all agree, we are on a journey in that respect, much can be achieved, as my hon. Friend has already demonstrated, without unnecessarily defining or delaying the process through a national strategy. Let us get on with it and see the Bill passed into law.

The broad potential improvements and impact of the Bill are substantial. I shall touch on some of them now and, if time permits, on some of the ways in which, in my local authority already, there is refreshed thinking about the importance of considering social value when awarding contracts.

One of the key merits of the Bill is its proposal to expand and embed the concept of social value in the bidding process for public sector funding, and that is true not just when social enterprises are involved, but when private sector providers compete against one another. Providers are likely to lever social value into many more submissions for public funding, and in that respect the Bill will have an exponential effect on the bidding landscape.

The Bill will, I hope, introduce more flexibility to tendering. When I discussed it with the head of CVS Cheshire East, she said that the tendering processes need reviewing and

“need to be relevant to the service that is being commissioned”.

She went on to say that

“grants are often used to encourage creative solutions to a need or problem…A tender often doesn’t enable this to happen, as the method for solving the need has already been set.”

Another way in which I hope the Bill will add social value is by opening up the often complex and baffling area of public procurement to smaller local social enterprises. They work at the grass roots of their community and with an ear to the ground, and they are often best placed to work most effectively for their communities and to add social value by levering in, for example, volunteering, but until now they have felt that the bureaucratic barriers to tendering have been just too great. For local authorities to say, “We welcome you, recognise what you have to offer and are going to proactively work with you through the application process to help you successfully bid,” will be a real step change for such enterprises.

Many faith-based organisations augment our local communities, adding so much social value through youth work and work with the homeless, the elderly, the addicted and the lonely and in many other areas, but in recent years they have felt discouraged from applying for public sector funding, perhaps because of concerns that in procurement their ethos does not tick all the right boxes. I therefore hope also that, as a result of the Bill, they will be encouraged to make such applications in future. So often, what injects faith-based organisations with their tremendous energy, dedication and perseverance springs from that very ethos, and in a truly diverse society let us celebrate, not seek to neutralise it, because at the end of the day all organisations have an ethos; none can be wholly devoid of one, or totally neutral. So let us welcome such valuable organisations fully into the public procurement process. The Bill sends out the right signals in that regard, and I welcome that aspect of it.

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I now quote some specific comments on the Bill from social enterprises in my constituency and cite some examples of good practice among them, showing how very much they welcome the Bill. Plus Dane is a housing association based in Cheshire and Merseyside that manages 12,500 homes and works as a neighbourhood investor. Mike Doran, its manager, who is based in Congleton, said:

“I believe the Bill will be of great benefit both to organisations such as ourselves but also to the wider community of locally based social enterprises…The need to demonstrate social value within procurement activity will ensure that a double bottom line of both economic and social good can be generated.”

I congratulate Cheshire East council as a forward-thinking council in this respect which absolutely recognises the value that organisations, community groups and social enterprises can add to our community livelihoods. I am delighted that in the recent past it has worked with Plus Dane on various projects. Plus Dane is delivering grounds maintenance and environmental services to the local authority. It is providing training and work for young people who have been long-term unemployed or have a history of getting into trouble with the law, enabling them to go on to gain full-time employment elsewhere. Plus Dane is working with the council in the provision of house building, with 35 apprentices, and it is supporting the development of a local apprenticeship initiative in Congleton that has involved the chamber of commerce, Congleton town partnership and local schools. This type of project is laudable, and this Bill will encourage a far greater recognition of such partnerships across local communities, which can make an exponential difference.

Another example is an enterprise called Visyon, which provides advice to young people who are suffering from abuse, the results of family breakdown, bullying and so on. It recently acquired devolved premises in my constituency through the local authority community transfer of assets scheme. In this respect, I commend the work of the right hon. Member for Salford and Eccles (Hazel Blears), who did so much to instigate that scheme. The hon. Member for Harrow West, who is not in his place, talked about the possibility of assets going out on the cheap. Visyon has received a local hall that was not being used to its maximum potential. The local authority has awarded it a contract that will enable those premises to support the development of many other groups across the constituency and their work within the local community. It is not about assets being passed across on the cheap but about a broader, better and more beneficial use of those assets for the whole community.

I pay tribute to my hon. Friend the Member for Warwick and Leamington. I feel privileged to have been able to support him on the journey that this Bill has undertaken, and I will continue to do so in future. I look forward to its outworking right across our nation.

Mike Freer: I, too, pay tribute to my hon. Friend the Member for Warwick and Leamington (Chris White) for getting his Bill this far. I characterise the remarks of the right hon. Member for Salford and Eccles (Hazel Blears) in that my business career was in the private sector but I also led one of the larger councils in the country. To be honest, when I first saw the Bill my heart

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sank, because I shared the prejudices that so many others have had regarding social enterprises. It was only when I started to see the Bill progress and to understand more of what was being done that the scales fell from my eyes and I became a supporter of it. It is better that a sinner repenteth than not change at all, if I may mix that analogy.

Although I support the Bill, I have some concerns that I hope the Minister can deal with. I believe that the definition of “social enterprise” needs to be clarified. As I said in my intervention on the hon. Member for Harrow West (Mr Thomas), there are many private sector organisations that we may not believe to be social enterprises but of which we could argue that part of their business is to improve the social welfare of the United Kingdom, although we may disagree. That is why unless we specify what is a social enterprise—including types of ownership, not just outcomes—we could end up with a lawyers’ charter as many companies argue that they have a social angle to their enterprise and should therefore qualify.

11.15 am

Will the Minister clarify whether, when there is a change of ownership, the normal contract rules apply whereby a significant change of ownership means that the contract can be revisited? That should also apply to any contracts let to social enterprises. For instance, Ealing Community Transport, the provider of recycling services to my London borough, was a very good social enterprise that was acquired by May Gurney, a private organisation. Will a social enterprise that ceases to be a social enterprise have to go back through the contracting, and what is the legal position?

Will the local government finance regulations on best value be amended to allow social enterprises that over-bid a private sector organisation to have that contract awarded? Currently, it is very difficult for local authorities to award contracts to a higher bidder without, in some cases, a Secretary of State’s approval—as the right hon. Member for Salford and Eccles will know, as many such cases probably came across her desk.

I hope that the Minister will be able to deal with those points. I support the Bill, and I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Warwick and Leamington (Chris White) on introducing it.

Mr Nuttall: It is, as always, a great pleasure to follow my hon. Friend the Member for Finchley and Golders Green (Mike Freer), who brings his experience in local government to this debate.

I rise to oppose new clauses 1, 2 and 3 and amendments 1, 2, 3 and 4. That is primarily because, while I appreciate that there is sometimes a time and a place for strategies, and that it is sometimes a good thing to have a strategy, I agree with what the Minister said in this House on Second Reading:

“I believe that, particularly in this context, strategies should be governed by the need of the moment, and should be driven by conviction rather than by a requirement to comply with some bureaucratic process. I do not want the process of drawing up strategies to be bureaucratic. I do not want it to be simply an exercise in producing more glossy brochures that fill up the bookshelves in our offices, which are not read and which do not have real traction.”—[Official Report, 19 November 2010; Vol. 518, c. 1217.]

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I could not agree more. There is a real danger that the new clauses will have the effect of introducing a level of bureaucracy to this procedure that will not add anything to the overall aim of the Bill.

I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Warwick and Leamington (Chris White) on his perseverance and determination in piloting the Bill through to this stage. He should be commended for that. Although it has been over a year since Second Reading, and some might think that that is slow progress, it has been positively sprightly when compared with the glacial progress made by the Bill promoted by my hon. Friend the Member for Castle Point (Rebecca Harris), who I see in her place—the Daylight Saving Bill, which, after a year, has yet to reach its Committee stage.

On the cost of these strategies, when I intervened on the hon. Member for Harrow West (Mr Thomas) he referred back to the cost of £41,000, which was cited by my hon. Friend the Member for Warwick and Leamington on Second Reading. I was not present on that occasion, but when I read the record of the debate shortly afterwards, I thought that estimate slightly optimistic, if my experience of the costs of achieving anything in government are anything to go by. I am still of that opinion today. In fact, I think that the figure is wholly unrealistic.

The costs are compounded by the solution that is given to the question of how one comes up with a mechanism to ensure that the strategies are actually carried out, provided in new clause 3, which is to produce an annual report—yet another cost and yet another obligation on the Secretary of State. The Secretary of State would have not only to produce a report, but consult several bodies including the National Audit Office, the Charity Commission, Social Enterprise UK, the Office for National Statistics and many others. I do not think that that would help to achieve the overall aims of the Bill.

I am often concerned when a Bill has cross-party support. I notice that there were no Divisions on Second Reading or in Committee.

Mr Thomas: Yes there were.

Mr Nuttall: Oh, there were Divisions in Committee.

This Bill plays a large part in the big society agenda. Once or twice today, anybody listening to this debate would have thought that it was a Government Bill. Of course, it is actually a private Member’s Bill. I am sure that even in its slimmed-down form, thousands of social enterprises across the country will welcome the progress that it has made. Having said that, there seems to be little in the Bill that could not take place regardless of whether the Bill makes progress and without the passage of new legislation. What is needed by those involved in the commissioning and procurement of public sector services is the will to secure diversity of provision. Users of public services are not concerned about whether the services are provided by the public sector, the private sector, the third sector, voluntary organisations, charities or social enterprises; what matters is the quality of the service they receive.

We need the process of bidding for public sector contracts to be made a great deal easier, not just for social enterprises, charities and voluntary organisations, but for small and medium-sized enterprises in the private

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sector. In that regard, I associate myself with the remarks made by my hon. Friend the Member for Congleton (Fiona Bruce). Smaller organisations, whether in the third sector or the private sector, often need a helping hand to guide them through what can seem to be a burdensome, complex and bureaucratic procedure. One thing that we need to do, as a Government and as a society, is to make that whole process much easier.

I hope that the Bill will encourage more social enterprises to develop and to take over, where feasible, areas of service from the public sector. From my point of view—I appreciate that this will not be welcome in all parts of the House—I would not worry if this was seen as a stepping-stone towards services being provided by the private sector. Of course when assets leave the public sector, the true and full price must be paid. Provided that that is done, there should be no loss to the public sector. We need dynamism in the procurement of public services, with contracts moving. Sometimes contracts might be kept in-house, sometimes they might go to the—

Madam Deputy Speaker (Dawn Primarolo): Order. I have given the hon. Gentleman quite a lot of latitude, as I have with other Members, but we are not on Third Reading or Second Reading; we are discussing new clauses and amendments. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman could anchor his remarks in the debate that we are currently having, not the one that we have not started.

Mr Nuttall: I am obliged to you, Madam Deputy Speaker. In fact, I was just making my final point, so if I may, I will complete that sentence and finish my remarks there.

I was saying that we would see contracts going from the public sector into the private sector, on to the third sector and then back again. There would be dynamism in the sector, which would mean that sometimes contracts would be lost by social enterprises and go back into the public sector or the private sector, and then be regained again. With that, I will not seek to catch the Chair’s eye on Third Reading, which I am sure you will be pleased about, Madam Deputy Speaker.

The Parliamentary Secretary, Cabinet Office (Mr Nick Hurd): May I start by adding my voice to those who have congratulated my hon. Friend the Member for Warwick and Leamington (Chris White) on the way in which he has led this Bill? I have said that on every occasion and I mean it. I thank him in particular for reminding the House, in what was a statesmanlike response to the shadow Minister, of the importance of the cross-party support that has built up over some years behind this agenda. That is essential if we are to make further progress.

I was delighted by the contribution of the right hon. Member for Salford and Eccles (Hazel Blears). She may have been described as unhinged in the past, but she was perfectly hinged today in her comments. She made it clear that, whatever her frustrations with the Bill, she recognises that it is a start and is happy for it to progress.

The hon. Member for Harrow West (Mr Thomas), my Harrow neighbour, is entirely right that we must not lose momentum. This agenda is more important than ever. We have a highly risk averse public sector system

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and a traditional business sector that is too stagnant in many areas. They must take this opportunity to create space for the change makers and the people who have the vision to stand up and say, “We see what you are doing. It can be done better.” This is exactly the time to do that. I have a lot of sympathy for the thrust of the hon. Gentleman’s remarks, which was about encouraging the system to go further. What he neglected to mention, in complaining about the playing field not being level, was who has tended the playing field for the past 13 years.

The hon. Gentleman also forgot to mention that it was a Labour Secretary of State for Health who reversed policy and made it clear that the NHS was to be the supplier of choice—a statement that sent shockwaves through the social enterprise and charity sector. I am glad that we are back on track and giving new momentum to the message that we must diversify our base of public sector delivery partners and that we must create more space for the change makers who are prepared to challenge the system.

That message is being recognised in some bizarre places. I wish that the hon. Gentleman had been with me this time last week in Brussels—I could have done with the company. I was at a conference where 800 people gathered from all over Europe, summoned by President Barroso and Commissioner Barnier for the launch of their social business initiative. Here we are in the middle of the greatest crisis facing the eurozone and the Commission is taking time, with leadership from the top, to state the importance of the whole area of social enterprise and social entrepreneurship. Speaker after speaker came to the podium to congratulate Britain on its leadership in Europe on this agenda. We must not lose sight of the big picture. We have the opportunity and the need to keep the momentum going.

I differ from the hon. Member for Harrow West on his view that simply legislating to require the Government to produce a statutory document will be transformational. We had a good debate on this matter in Committee, so I will not labour the point. However, I am extremely grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Bury North (Mr Nuttall) for quoting what I said on Second Reading. I agreed with every word of it—I was on good form that day—and I stick to it. My hon. Friend the Member for Warwick and Leamington usefully reminded the House that we have had action plans before, and it is about not the publication of a plan but delivery and action.

The hon. Member for Harrow West bemoaned the lack of a strategic framework, but I would argue that in fact the coalition Government set a strong lead and set out a very strong framework in the agreement for government, which contains an explicit statement about our commitment to support the creation of mutuals and social enterprises and encourage them to play a bigger role in public service delivery. From that, a flow of action is increasingly evident in various areas, which I will summarise briefly.

11.30 am

The first area is the most directly relevant to the Bill. If we want to create new space for social enterprises and social entrepreneurs, we have to open up new market opportunities for them. No bigger market opportunity

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exists than the opportunity to help us deliver better public services. My hon. Friend the Member for Warwick and Leamington has understandably spent a lot of time talking about mutuals and co-operatives, so he knows of the opportunity to build on a new movement to unlock the entrepreneurial energy inside the public sector. It is about encouraging nurses and other public servants to continue what they do and the care and the service that they provide in a different setting in which they feel a greater sense of ownership and responsibility.

Those of us who have had the good fortune to visit some of the pathfinders, the leaders in that space, as I know many of us have, can feel the difference in those organisations and feel that we need to build on what they are doing. The hon. Member for Harrow West was slightly sniffy about progress, but we have made a good start and feel that with the introduction of the Mutuals Information Service, which has a £10 million investment behind it, we will continue to send a very strong signal to the system that we encourage mutuals and want to support them actively.

Hazel Blears: Will the Minister acknowledge that it was in fact the previous Labour Government who introduced the legislation that enabled social enterprises to be established in the health service, and who provided significant financial support to get them off the ground? That was a Labour initiative. There are organisations such as Six Degrees, Unlimited Potential and the Angel health centre all across my city now, and they are providing excellent services. That was an initiative of the Labour Government.

Mr Hurd: I am very much prepared to accept, as I have in public on many occasions both in the House and outside, that we are building on some excellent work, to which consistency is fundamental. The point that I made earlier was that it was a Labour Secretary of State who sent a very mixed message to the market by giving an explicit statement that the NHS was to be the supplier of choice. I am delighted that there now seems to be cross-party support again for a message that is more positive for, and supportive of, social enterprises and charities and the opportunity for them to deliver public services.

The hon. Member for Harrow West mentioned the Work programme, and he is right that it is early days. There is certainly some frustration and cynicism out there in the social sector, and I am listening to it and liaising closely with the Minister of State, Department for Work and Pensions, my right hon. Friend the Member for Epsom and Ewell (Chris Grayling), on it. However, we cannot lose sight of the fact that under one of the most important of the Government’s programmes, deliberately structured as a payment-by-results system to incentivise primes to work with organisations that have a track record and a good opportunity to deliver results, we have 300 social enterprises and charities in the supply chain. Depending on their delivery, I believe they are set to earn several hundred million pounds over the life of their contracts. That is definitely a step forward.

The Work programme is not just about encouraging different suppliers of existing services. We are trying to get the system to think differently about how services are commissioned, so we are working with four local authorities on troubled families with multiple problems.

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I think we all know from our constituencies that the state has historically not done a very good job of supporting such families. We are encouraging those local authorities to consider working in a different way and structuring a more holistic service based more on prevention and an openness to working with different suppliers under a payment-by-results contract. We hope that will lead to four new social impact bonds, to encourage social investors to come in and share some of the risk and return.

That action and activity is intended to break down what the right hon. Member for Salford and Eccles and others know is a tremendous aversion to risk in the system. No one can pretend that that is easy, or that publishing a strategy document or even Government guidelines will instantly break down the culture of risk aversion in the public sector. She rightly talked about the need to support commissioners better, because they are operating in systems that are tremendously averse to risk. I have sat around tables with commissioners who get what we are talking about and want to make progress and work more with social enterprises and charities to restructure services. However, I have had queues of people at the door saying, “You can’t do that.” I am sure she knows—she has been there—that the more we consider the matter, the bigger the challenge gets.

We are thinking afresh about how we support commissioners, and the Minister for the Cabinet Office has talked about our plans to set up a commissioning academy to try to support commissioners, develop more intelligent commissioning and raise the status of the profession and the qualifications in it. We want to develop learning resources that build on the best practice that is being developed around the system, and that is a serious project.

The Bill will add value to that process—perhaps not in ways that every Member would like, because we all know that politics is the art of the possible at a given moment and that there are compromises to be made, but we are on a journey. The Bill will complement the best value duty, which Opposition Members did not mention but which my hon. Friend the Member for Finchley and Golders Green (Mike Freer) brought up. That was an important piece of guidance from the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government to local authorities, setting out an expectation that commissioners should consider the overall value of service provision, including economic, environmental and social value. That covered the full procurement chain for services and goods, and was a very clear new piece of guidance.

We believe that the Bill will complement that useful guidance by sending an additional signal to commissioners outside local authorities that, where it is relevant and proportionate, they should consider social value at the pre-procurement phase when they are considering commissioning services. That is how we can balance out the areas in which we think the biggest impact can be made now and our desire not to impose too many disproportionate duties and burdens on people who are doing already very difficult jobs. That is where we are comfortable with pushing the agenda forward.

Mike Freer: I am grateful to the Minister for his clarification of the guidance from my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Communities and Local

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Government. Guidance is fine, but from memory I believe it is still open to a local council tax payer or resident to challenge a local authority’s accounts if they believe that the local authority has not achieved best value. We need to go beyond guidance and ensure that the legislation all lines up.

Mr Hurd: I accept that point, and to some degree that is what we are doing today. We are moving forward on that. My hon. Friend mentions the concept of the right to challenge, which had not previously been mentioned in the debate. Again, we are moving forward on that, because we are moving into a world in which there will be much more information about what commissioners are doing and how public money is being spent. Through the Localism Act 2011, which I am delighted to say has completed its passage through Parliament, the right to challenge is now set in statute, with regulations to follow shortly to clarify how it will work. That is progress on the journey that I have described.

Mr Thomas: Will construction be covered by the clause on social value?

Mr Hurd: I have nothing to add to what I said in Committee. The Bill is reasonably clear about where it will apply.

The right hon. Member for Salford and Eccles mentioned B4Box in her constituency. The position will be enhanced by the new best value guidance, and there is nothing to prevent the local authority from working on the basis that she described. I am grateful to her for bringing Aileen in to talk about the matter. Aileen is doing it. There is space in the system for her to do it. She and I would probably agree that we need to send a stronger signal that it is okay, but it is okay and people are doing it. The best value guidance from the Secretary of State moves things on further by sending a signal of permissiveness.

I have always made it clear that the Government have from the start supported the principle of the Bill because of the value that it adds to the process, and it goes with the grain of what the previous Administration were trying to achieve. The system, risk averse as it is, is getting a consistently stronger signal about the need to take account of wider social value considerations when spending taxpayers’ and constituents’ money and to be more alive to opportunities to commission intelligently. Lots of examples have been cited in our debates of fantastic organisations, such as Create, that are adding value to our communities. I cited that example in my Brussels speech because in many ways it embodies exactly what we are trying to encourage.

We can do more. The hon. Member for Harrow West goaded us to come up with more ideas to support social enterprises in this movement. I have talked about the need to open up new market opportunities to help these enterprises grow and to help more people, but the Government can do more to make life simpler for the social entrepreneur. I shall come later to the question of definition but these are businesses first and foremost, and the guidance and requirements that we place on people trying to run businesses in this country are ridiculously disproportionate. A rigorous process is under way. It cannot be undertaken lightly and it does not lend itself to soundbites. It is a rigorous process of

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going through each subsector of the economy to look at the regulatory burden and to discuss with the players in those sectors what we can remove and what is no longer proportionate or necessary. That process is well under way.

We can also help social enterprises with the increasingly important question of how to measure social impact. That is their currency. Many of us know that the money providers, whether private or public, are increasingly demanding that social enterprises, charities and, I hope, other organisations measure and communicate their social impact and social value, which is their unique selling point. Many of us are also aware that arguably there is too great a profusion of initiatives in this area and of the risk that this will only confuse the landscape. I want greater coherence and consistency not least so that we, as funders, and other stakeholders can agree on what is worth measuring and how it can be measured affordably by all organisations.

Hazel Blears: This is a really important point. There is a plethora of ways to measure social value. I mentioned in Committee an organisation called Connectives, which has moved on from the social return on investment transactional model towards a much more in-depth assessment of what social value means. Is the Minister prepared to meet the two female accountants behind Connectives to explore their ideas?

Mr Hurd: I would be delighted. I thoroughly enjoyed the first meeting that the right hon. Lady invited me to, and I am sure that this one will be just as informative. I also thank her for reinforcing my instinct that the Government can take a lead in trying to make life simpler for all parties, not least in our role as a major funder, and to help people to reach greater coherence and consistency when working out what is worth measuring and how it can be measured by all organisations, not only those with the deepest pockets.

11.45 am

We can make life much simpler by making better connections between those in the not-for-profit sector and those in the for-profit sector. Both groups could benefit from that. The right hon. Lady touched on this. There is an untapped opportunity here. I was fortunate earlier this week to sit down with Professor Muhammad Yunus, the Nobel prize winner and father of the microcredit. His latest initiative is a social business and joint venture with Danone to provide better nutrition for the poorest children in Bangladesh. He has persuaded Danone to come in as a partner. As one listens to how the initiative is structured, it becomes clear that here we have one of the biggest companies in the world focusing its energy on what it is really good at in order to help some of the most vulnerable and disadvantaged people in the world, and in the process it is being stretched and tested to rethink how it makes and distributes its products, so its core business is benefiting from the process.

Given how rare these examples are, the opportunities are exciting. I want more corporations to see the opportunity to improve themselves by stretching themselves to apply their skills in different settings. More specifically, in this country we think that there is tremendous scope for making better connections between social enterprises,

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the not-for-profit sector and the traditional business community at a local level. Most of us know from our constituents—certainly mine—that we have barely scratched the surface of what we can achieve if we can make these connections work better. That involves different languages and communities, but we are interested in doing more together. It requires human interventions to make these connections work better.

We are working with businesses and communities to pilot business connectors—people seconded from businesses such as Sainsbury’s and Greggs—to play a community role: to find out what communities need and connect it to what local businesses say they can supply. Already I have seen in Redcar how a business connector persuaded the council to make an empty shop available to incubate five social enterprises with the support of local business—an empty shop gets used, five businesses are formed and older businesses find out much more about what their community needs. It is a win-win situation. Again, this is all new movement, new progress.

The hon. Member for Harrow West mentioned the fundamental need to make it easier for social entrepreneurs to access finance. There is real momentum there, and I am happy to say that we are building on initiatives by the previous Government—for example, the enabling legislation on dormant bank accounts. That is fundamental to allowing us to do what we want to do. However, our ambition is considerably greater than that of the previous Administration, who were prepared to commit only up to £75 million to the social investment bank, whereas we are on track to capitalise that institution with about £600 million. That is a quantum leap in ambition.

The momentum is there. Social entrepreneurs have been telling Governments of various hues over the years that the biggest barrier to growth has been access to finance. As we well know, the traditional world of finance in this country—the people who manage our deposits and savings—is not connected to the social sector in any meaningful way, despite the fact that we, their customers, care deeply about a number of the social challenges facing this country and would, I think, like to be part of the solution. However, we are not being presented with that opportunity at the moment.

Part of our vision is to grow the social investment market—a market for money where people are prepared to blend financial return and social impact—to make a better bridge between the world of savings and the social sector. If we can build that market, we can move serious money into the social sector. Big society capital is our major intervention in that respect—it is ambitious; it is on track. It is extremely important, but it is not enough in itself, because intermediaries—the people working with social enterprises—say that there is a problem with the quality of the pipeline of deals and investable opportunities. We need to accelerate and improve that pipeline, which is why we have announced a £10 million technical assistance fund that will deliver grants to enable front-line organisations to become more investment-ready.

This is all about trying to make it easier for social entrepreneurs to access capital and for savers in this country to be part of the solution to some of the social challenges that we face, and that we all want to get serious about tackling. Fundamentally, there is a cross-party consensus on this issue and the need to send a stronger signal to a risk-averse system that it is okay to innovate

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and to think about reconfiguring services or working with different providers. On that basis, the Bill adds value to that process and that journey.

We oppose the amendments. We note that most of the stakeholders in this conversation are happy with the Bill as it stands. I urge the hon. Member for Harrow West not to press his new clause to a vote, because it runs the risk of wrecking a Bill that is a useful, incremental step. It is certainly not the end of the journey; it is a chink of light. When I took the Sustainable Communities Act 2007 through Parliament, I was clear that it was not complete; rather, it was about putting a foot in the door, confident that the door would not then be closed. From that process, the Localism Act 2011 is now on the statute book and the game has been changed. On that basis, I urge the hon. Gentleman to withdraw his new clause and allow the Bill to move to the Lords and, I hope, on to the statute book, so that we can continue on this journey.

Mr Thomas: We have had an excellent debate on new clause 1 and its associated new clauses, with an excellent speech from my right hon. Friend the Member for Salford and Eccles (Hazel Blears) and similarly strong speeches from the Bill’s promoter, the hon. Member for Warwick and Leamington (Chris White), and the hon. Members for Congleton (Fiona Bruce), for Finchley and Golders Green (Mike Freer) and for Bury North (Mr Nuttall), as well as the Minister.

The hon. Member for Warwick and Leamington encouraged us in the view that he was a practical and pragmatic person; I hope that I, too, share those characteristics. I say gently to him and his hon. Friends who are not convinced of the merits of a strategy that if one is comfortable with unintended consequences or outcomes that one does not necessarily want, a strategy is certainly not required. However, if one has a clear vision and a sense of the possibilities for a sector, a strategy can help to unlock the incremental steps required to allow it to flourish. The hon. Gentleman mentioned the social enterprise plan, which my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition developed when he held the position currently held by the Minister. The hon. Gentleman said that some parts of that strategy were not implemented, but that is often the case with strategies. Not everything is successful, but if one is trying to grow a sector strategically, one learns from the things that have not worked in order to enjoy even more success in future.

My right hon. Friend the Member for Salford and Eccles suggested that the Government were moving too slowly and not deeply enough on this agenda—a succinct and accurate summary of some of the problems that parts of the Government face in implementing it. She rightly talked about the potential benefit of the one bit of the Bill that the Government support, which is that on encouraging businesses in the private sector to continue the journey that many are already on and think about how best to use social enterprises in their supply chains. Many businesses recognise that CSR reports, corporate donations to charity and corporate philanthropy are important, but not enough on their own, and that building social enterprises into their supply chains—she gave the example of how Morrisons is working with social enterprises in her area—can make a genuine difference to the private sector and, similarly, help to grow social value.

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The hon. Member for Congleton praised the social enterprises in her constituency and highlighted how the social value element of the Bill could help them to grow further.

The hon. Member for Finchley and Golders Green explored in his speech some of the issues that he raised in his intervention on me about the definition of a social enterprise. I was struck by the benefit that a proper strategic conversation on how to grow the social enterprise sector might have for one very interesting idea recently presented to me—the idea of developing the concept of a social enterprise limited liability partnership to help ease investment finance from the City into social enterprises.

The Minister began his remarks wishing I had been with him in Brussels. He is, as ever, charming and I would have found it hard to resist if he had indeed called me in time to accompany him. He is absolutely right that the Government have taken some positive steps on this agenda, but, sadly, there have also been negative steps backwards for the sector. I welcome the progress made on the big society bank, but even the £600 million with which the Minister hopes the bank will be capitalised will not plug the huge amount of grant income being taken out of the sector.

I was encouraged by the Minister’s recognition that the Work programme has not gone well for the sector. He said that he is listening, but I fear that his colleagues in the Department for Work and Pensions are, sadly, out of touch with just how badly things are going for many charities and social enterprises that had hoped to be part of the Work programme.

Let me leave the House with one further statistic about the failure to date of commissioning in this area. The London Voluntary Sector Consortium surveyed some 25 tier 2 providers, 23 of which had had no referrals from their prime contractors—hardly a ringing endorsement of the success of commissioning for social enterprises under this Government to date.

Lastly, the hon. Member for Bury North almost appeared to lament the cross-party support for the Bill. I thought he was encouraging me to press my amendments to the vote. I recognise that there are insufficient Members in the House today, which means that if a vote were called the Bill’s progress would be stalled. Although the Minister has made a slightly better fist, if I may say so, of answering the concerns of Labour Members about the Bill’s narrow scope, I would have been tempted to press some of my amendments. I want the Bill to make progress, however, so I beg to ask leave to withdraw the motion.

Clause, by leave, withdrawn.

Third Reading.

11.58 am

Chris White: I beg to move, That the Bill be now read the Third time.

I will be brief, as a great deal of what needs to be said has already been said. The Bill before us may not be perfect, although it is perfectly timed. It comes at a time when social enterprises and voluntary community organisations across our communities are looking to the Government and all political parties to show support for the work they do.

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There is still a long way for the Bill to go. I hope that it will continue to find support on all sides in the other place and when it comes to implementation. People want to see more of this kind of politics. It is not partisan politics, motivated by getting one over on the other side. It is politics that puts society first, recognising that when it comes to the better use of public money for the benefit of our communities, we can all benefit from it. There is much more work to be done, and I hope it will be done in the same cross-party and consensual manner that we have seen on the Bill so far.

12 noon

Mr Thomas: Let me again congratulate the hon. Member for Warwick and Leamington (Chris White). He has done a masterly job in nursing his Bill through the corridors of Whitehall, where I suspect that he has engaged in some particularly interesting conversations, and through its various stages in the House. He took his party’s leaders at their word and presented a big society Bill, and it is certainly not his fault that the Government have gutted it. What remains is nevertheless useful, and, as many Members have observed, could begin to make a difference in local communities as commissioners think a little more carefully about how to maximise social value.

Mr Philip Hollobone (Kettering) (Con): The hon. Gentleman has correctly described this as a useful Bill. Will he give the House the assurance of his party that in the other place everything possible will be done to ensure that it is passed before the end of the current parliamentary Session?

Mr Thomas: I will certainly do all that I can to encourage its passage. I hope that I have demonstrated to the hon. Gentleman, as well as to the hon. Member for Warwick and Leamington, the spirit of co-operation that was needed for it to make progress today, and I sincerely hope that it is passed in the other place and becomes law.

A week or so ago, on social enterprise day, I visited Hackney Community Transport, a remarkable social enterprise. I met not only its chief executive, but some of the staff who have been selected as this year’s social enterprise champions for the organisation. It is a remarkable outfit. In the early 1980s, finding it increasingly hard to obtain the grants that it needed in order to continue to meet the demand for transport from pensioners’ clubs, community swimming groups and the local Guides and Scouts, it set out to try to win commercial transport contracts. Last year its turnover was some £28 million, and over the past five years it has sustained a 20% to 25% annual rate of growth. That is a remarkable success by any definition.

Hackney Community Transport creates social value by reinvesting the profits from its commercial contracts in transport services for community groups in its area, and by training the long-term unemployed to help them prepare for a return to work. In its small way, the Bill will reinforce the extra value that it creates in its local community. Let me point out gently to Conservative Members that Hackney council has been a supporter of that social enterprise, working with it and commissioning

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contracts in ways that give it a fair chance. Here is the state in action at its most innovative, working with the community to create real social value and community benefit.

The Bill has the potential to help two more excellent social enterprises, as well as, I am sure, many others. Greenwich Leisure is another part local government, part enterpreneurial employee-led social enterprise, born in response to John Major’s cuts in the early 1990s. Winning contracts from local authorities to provide leisure services, it has created many new jobs and offered a range of initiatives to persuade those who have previously been unable or unwilling to use leisure centres through its doors. I am delighted to say that my own council has a contract to run our leisure centre with that excellent social enterprise.

The superb Coin Street Community Builders, 10 minutes away from this great House, was formed as a result of a challenge from the private sector. Big hotel groups wanted to take over the frontage of the River Thames, not for the community’s benefit but purely in their own interests. The tenacity of the community—and, to be fair, the skill of the Greater London Council planners at that time—led to the site being protected. Through a mix of legal forms—a housing association, a co-operative, a company—the community gradually generated new social housing. It has also refurbished the striking Oxo tower, created new work spaces for businesses, and helped regenerate the surrounding area. That has created considerable community benefit, and real social value.

The Labour party champions social enterprise and social value, not because we want to roll back the state or provide cover for tax cuts for the few and huge cuts in services for the many, but because we believe in strong communities and we recognise that we need to allow the ideas and imagination of the brightest and the best in our communities to flourish. Social enterprise and social value, along with Government, have key roles to play in that regard, and we support the Bill on that basis.

12.5 pm

Richard Fuller: I wholeheartedly support the Bill promoted by my hon. Friend the Member for Warwick and Leamington (Chris White), as it enhances both supply and demand in a very important part of our economy: social enterprise. I think that this Bill can achieve more than my hon. Friend the Member for Bury North (Mr Nuttall) has said can already be done. I encourage my hon. Friend the Member for Warwick and Leamington to continue his efforts and, indeed, to continue to challenge the Minister to do more.

The aspects of the Bill that I find most intriguing and to which I give most support concern its role in enhancing our country's ability to meet the challenge of our economic situation. We hear every day about the demands for growth, the challenge of deficits and the overhang of debt, and we look for the remedies that we may have to overcome all those great challenges. We look at our televisions screens and see elderly people in many of our social services lacking in the care that they need and being denied the dignity that they deserve, and we ask why such things happen in our country.

The solution to those challenges lies not in some technological innovation or substantial additional contribution of funds, but in understanding and enhancing the entrepreneurship of every man and woman in this

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country. I often struggle to understand all the reasons and rationales for people wanting to become entrepreneurs, because it is not simple; it is not straightforward. We have heard many examples from both sides of the House today of people who started social enterprises and businesses. Underpinning all that is the fact that the individual wanted to step up. He or she felt motivated to step forward and do something that was different and innovative. Their motivation could be the desire to make money; it could be that they want to do something for their community or their country; or they could be motivated by some spiritual values at the core of their heart. This Bill takes us a step forward in saying to those whose motivation is to help the community that this Government believe in them, want them to step forward and want them to achieve things on behalf of our country.

The right hon. Member for Salford and Eccles (Hazel Blears) made a pertinent point about the social value rather than the organisation. Social value is what we are looking to achieve—not to define some particular circumspect or corporate identity—and it is at the core of my hon. Friend's Bill.

For people who have the motivation to step up, the Bill creates a market and demand. Members on both sides of the House have raised concerns about whether the provisions should cover services alone, or if goods should be included too. That is a fair point. We have heard that, perhaps, we are not pushing boldly enough for a strategy, and therefore condemning ourselves to dealing with just two or three local authorities rather than the country as a whole. That is a fair point, too. What we are doing is creating a market. We are creating an opportunity for people now to say to local authorities across the country, “What are you doing to promote what I see in my heart and what motivates me to do better in my community?” The Bill does not define a document; it creates that space for these entrepreneurs, and it could not come at a more opportune time to meet the challenges that our country faces.

I commend the Minister for his support for the Bill. We understand the scale of the challenges that we face, we support all the initiatives outlined today, we understand that there must be caution in financing initiatives, and we understand that there are limitations on what the public purse can support, but he needs to understand that the group of people who sit behind him—those individuals who want to step up and do better in their community—are looking to him to see this Bill not as the ending point of a particular piece of work, but as the start of what we hope will be a radical Administration in this area. I thoroughly and wholeheartedly support the initiative of my hon. Friend the Member for Warwick and Leamington and encourage the House to support the Bill.

12.11 pm

Hazel Blears: I shall be brief, because I had the opportunity to make my comments at length during the debate on the new clauses. I just want to put on the record my thanks to the hon. Member for Warwick and Leamington (Chris White) for using the precious opportunity to introduce a private Member’s Bill to introduce this Bill about social enterprise and social value. It is also part of a journey, as the Minister said, to transform the way in which we commission and

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provide essential services in this country and to unleash the innovation that the hon. Member for Bedford (Richard Fuller) has just talked about.

There has been a great deal of consensus on these issues. I hope that that consensus will continue and when we get the Health and Social Care Bill back in this House, Government Members will support us in trying to move forward with a definition of “social enterprise” in the health context. If the NHS is to be the biggest social enterprise in the world, we certainly need more clarity and reassurance about what that organisation should look like, what its legal responsibilities are and whether it will have an asset lock on the spin-outs in employment. I hope that the consensus will continue.

Having said that, there are differences between the parties, even on this agenda, as the speech made by the hon. Member for Bury North (Mr Nuttall) illustrated. So I have no doubt that we will continue to have a lively debate about the role of social value. I am very keen to see it extended into the private and corporate sector, and I think that there is a genuine move among businesses to want to be bigger players in this area than they have perhaps been in the past. Again, I am looking to the Government to think about what incentives can be put into the system to encourage corporate bodies to shepherd social enterprises and to use them in their supply chain. Big construction companies such as Wates Construction are beginning to get that argument but, again, the Government can send messages to push the system along to ensure that we do not have to wait 10 years for that kind of development to take place.

The Bill is an important step on that journey and helps to reinforce the idea that the economic situation gives us a huge impetus to try to get more value out of the taxpayers’ money that we spend. The innovation of this sector can help us to do so much more. If, in the process of doing that, we can persuade people in business that making a contribution to the community is not just a good thing in itself, but that it helps them to augment and enhance their company, we will have made an excellent contribution.

I am delighted to have been a part of this Bill from the very beginning, and it is lovely to see it through to the end. I am not that used to private Members’ business, but I have certainly learned a lot on this journey and I am grateful to the hon. Member for Warwick and Leamington for his courage. I will do everything I can to ensure that the Bill gets a swift passage in the other place so that we see it on the statute book.

12.14 pm

Mr Hurd: My hon. Friend the Member for Warwick and Leamington (Chris White) is bathing in the warm glow of the House’s approval and he deserves it, because he and his Bill have reached a milestone that very few people pass. He is to be very warmly congratulated on it. I have been in his position, so I know how frustrating the journey can be and how much patience is required—he has demonstrated all that. I would particularly like to congratulate him on the way in which he has worked with stakeholders outside this place to bring them together and keep them together on this journey. I know that it has been deeply appreciated.

My hon. Friend can take some comfort from the fact that I believe sincerely that the Bill has not been gutted—far from it. It has been focused on what is most important

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and valuable right now, which is sending a much clearer signal to those who are doing the very difficult job of buying services on our behalf. At the critical pre-procurement phase—the importance of which is so often underestimated and at which those buying are thinking hard and consulting about what is needed and about what they are buying, shaping the market of potential supply for that service—they should receive a clear message from us that we expect them to consider social and environmental value, when relevant and proportionate. That is a very useful addition and complements the other initiatives that are all pushing for space, not least the best value guidance from the Department for Communities and Local Government.

I am delighted to stand at the Dispatch Box on behalf of the Government to congratulate my hon. Friend, to confirm our support and to wish him every good fortune in the other place. If he succeeds, his name will be on the milestone of a very important journey that will help to unlock the entrepreneurial energy that wants to be part of this process. We will then be able to deliver what we all want: better public services for the people we serve.

Question put and agreed to.

Bill accordingly read the Third time and passed.

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Taxation Freedom Day Bill

Second Reading

12.16 pm

Mr Philip Hollobone (Kettering) (Con): I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.

It is a privilege to move Second Reading of the Taxation Freedom Day Bill. It is a small Bill with an important message to Her Majesty’s Government from the Great British taxpayer and provides for an annual taxation freedom day to reflect the proportion of tax paid by individuals from their income. The idea is that each year, the Chancellor of the Exchequer must, by way of a statutory instrument, specify a day that will be observed as taxation freedom day. The purpose of this taxation freedom day will be to mark the day in any given calendar year on which the United Kingdom’s net national income reaches the level of the United Kingdom’s estimated level of national taxation for that calendar year.

In the Bill, total national taxation includes all forms of direct, indirect and local taxation and it will be calculated not by Her Majesty’s Government and not by me, but by the independent and trusted Office for National Statistics. Likewise, the Office for National Statistics would also be charged with calculating net national income.

Each year, the Chancellor of the Exchequer will determine the day in the year when taxation freedom day will fall using the proportion of the United Kingdom’s estimated level of national taxation to the United Kingdom’s estimated net national income. Under the terms of the Bill, an order would not be able to be made unless it was laid before and approved by resolution of each House of Parliament. Each year, before 30 November, the Chancellor of the Exchequer will have to lay before Parliament the estimated date of taxation freedom day in the following year and, before 31 May, the Chancellor will have to lay before Parliament a report setting out whether the estimated date of taxation freedom day in that calendar year was correct.

The purpose of the Bill is to try to provide some transparency for the British taxpayer about the burden of taxation on them and on the national economy. It is essentially politically neutral and is not an argument for or against any particular level of national taxation. I have my own views on that, on which I hope to elaborate later, but all I seek to do is to get across, in a readily understood and straightforward way, the proportion of our economy that is taken up in taxation. The Bill is one of almost a dozen that I have put before the House in this Session. I should like to place on record my thanks to Jonathan Isaby at the TaxPayers Alliance for his contribution to the Bill’s drafting. I thank also the Adam Smith Institute for its germ of an idea about having a readily understood national taxation freedom day, as well as the Freedom Association, which has been extremely supportive.

Taxation freedom day in 2011 was 30 May—three days later than last year—which means that, on average, every British taxpayer had to hand over all their income to Her Majesty’s Government for the first 149 days of 2011. Only after 30 May did they get to keep for themselves any income they earned. Having recognition

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of such a calendar date would reflect and get across in a very simple and straightforward way the burden of taxation on our economy.

The date of taxation freedom day varies from year to year, and the point is to make it easy to understand how the burden of taxation changes each year. In 1964, taxation freedom day was 23 April, whereas in 2011, as I have mentioned, it fell on 30 May. So, over that period, taxation freedom day moved by 37 days. In 1964, the average British taxpayer had to work for only 114 days before they could keep their income for themselves, but in 2011 they had to work for 151 days before they could keep their income.

Mr David Nuttall (Bury North) (Con): My hon. Friend is making a very cogent speech. Is he aware that these figures have been calculated back to the turn of the 20th century? In 1900, the figure was only 22 days and in 1910 it was only 19 days.

Mr Hollobone: I am grateful to my hon. Friend for that most helpful intervention. Such interventions highlight how well he serves his constituents with the depth of his knowledge and research into legislation such as this. The figures he gave put into context the horrifying advance in the burden of taxation that we all have to pay. The fundamental truth is that Her Majesty’s Government and Ministers such as the Economic Secretary to the Treasury, who is on the Front Bench, do not have any income or resources of their own. Everything that the Government spend on our behalf either comes from the British taxpayer or is borrowed. The burden of that taxation demand is of concern to everyone.

There may well be Members, perhaps on the Opposition Benches, who believe that the burden of taxation should go up. That is a perfectly respectable argument. There are those who believe that the state can marshal the resources of the British people better than the individuals themselves. I do not happen to agree with that, but it is a perfectly respectable point of view. I would expect them to welcome taxation freedom day going up the calendar, so to speak, perhaps into June, July or even August. My Bill does not say that that is a bad thing. What my Bill says, in a politically neutral way, is, “Let’s let the British people know what the burden of taxation is so that they might make a judgment about whether it is acceptable or not.”

The figures that my hon. Friend the Member for Bury North (Mr Nuttall) cited from the turn of the 20th century demonstrate how far we have come, in an adverse way, since those days. My humble remarks go back only to 1964, which happens to be the year in which I was born. In 1964 British taxpayers had to work for only 114 days until taxation freedom day, and now, in 2011, the equivalent figure is 141.

Taxation freedom day has moved around quite a lot in the past 47 years. The House might be interested to know, for example, that between 1964 and 1970, taxation freedom day moved by 40 days, from 23 April to 2 June. Those were the days of the devaluation crisis, a great deal of trade union militancy and the public finances being in some disorder. The burden of taxation went up by more than a month’s worth—40 days’ worth—over that period. Then, from 1970 to 1973, taxation freedom day fell by 21 days, from 2 June to 11 May.