Third Way has long supported wider ownership of industry and services through co-operatives and trusts. We are also strong supporters of small and family businesses. We therefore wwelcome the statement this week from Labour shadow chancellor John McDonnell that workers should have the right to buy out their bosses.
Mr McDonnell said there was a strong case for a “right to own” in which employees could request co-operative ownership at any point and be given the first opportunity to buy if a company goes under.
In his speech in Manchester he said Labour had to move on from its traditional belief that state ownership was always the answer.
“Whatever the achievements of the past, we cannot simply turn the clock back – whether to 1997, 1964, or 1945,” he said.
He said Labour would go further than proposals for greater state support for employee ownership made in a report to the previous Con-Dem government.
Tax lawyer Graeme Nuttall’s review led to sales of controlling interests to employee ownership trusts being exempted from capital gains tax.
“We should look to extend this approach, offering employees first rights on buying out a company or plant that is being dissolved, sold or floated on the stock exchange,” Mr McDonnell said.
“Italy’s Marcora Law, providing matched funding for those seeking to establish co-ops, is a model worth considering.”
Patrick Harrington, Director of the Third Way think-tank, commented:
“There is a growing political trend in support of wider ownership of industry and measures that support that. State ownership of key industries also remains an important part of the mix. We have long advocated railway renationalisation, for example. Labour this week has upped the ante and widened the debate which is encouraging and welcome. Under their new leadership Labour are bringing into the mainstream debate issues that need serious consideration.”