Social value bill enters committee stage after backing from MPs
Vibeka Mair, Civil Society
MPs including minister for civil society Nick Hurd and Labour MP Hazel Blears debated the Public Services (Social Enterprise and Social Value) Bill, tabled by Conservative MP Chris White, for more than four hours.
White said his Bill would use public money to "leverage and galvanise" voluntary, community and social enterprise groups:
"What we can see is that there is a definite trend towards services that are more local, more personalised and more responsive to our community needs," he said.
"Civil society has a great opportunity to provide these services if it given the chance to do so and, once it has been given the chance to do so, to build on them."
He added: "This Bill will seek to make commissioners more enlightened in their approach and to send a strong message to all areas of the public sector that what is presently seen as good practice becomes normal practice."
However, while Hurd supported the Bill’s principles on delivering social outcomes, he attached conditions to the government’s support, saying it would want to drop sections seeking to introduce a national social enterprise strategy and a requirement on councils to develop their own local social enterprise strategies.
He said: "Strategies, particularly in this context, should be driven by the need of the moment and driven by conviction rather than a requirement to comply with some bureaucratic process."
Now that the proposed legislation has passed second reading it will go to the Public Bill Committee in early 2011, where it will be debated further.
The Social Enterprise Coalition, which has been rallying support for the Bill among the social enterprise business community, voluntary sector and politicians, held a mass lobby in Parliament while the Bill was being debated last week.
Peter Holbrook, chief executive of the Coalition, said: "We cannot be anything other than delighted with today’s result. It was a major hurdle to overcome. As a result of this Bill we have increased awareness of the importance of social enterprise and social value among MPs.
"If the Bill proceeds it could become one of the most important pieces of legislation for our sector in a generation. The fact that it has support from the three main parties makes the turning of this Bill into law next year a very real possibility.”