Papers of the Co-operative Independent Commission

Scope and Content

The collection includes minutes and agendas for the 35 Independent Commission's meetings; minutes for sub-committee meetings; reports on visits to various societies; research documents; the Commission's internal memoranda; evidence presented by retail societies, private individuals and other sections of the Co-operative movement; draft copies of the final report; papers of a special investigation into the sources and uses of Co-operative capital; photographs; and rough notes and working papers.

Administrative / Biographical History

The Co-operative Independent Commission was set up in 1955 due to the decline in the growth of the Co-operative movement. The aim of the Commission was to investigate the strengths and weaknesses of Co-operative production and marketing in wholesale and retail. The Commission was to present a report of recommendations to the Central Executive designed to secure the greatest possible advantage to the movement from its manufacturing, wholesale, and retail resources. The chair of the Committee was deputy leader, and later leader, of the Labour Party Hugh Gaitskell, C.B.E., M.P. The secretary was ex Labour M.P. Mr C.A.R. Crosland. The other original members of the Commission were Miss Margaret Digby, O.B.E.; Professor D.T. Jack, C.B.E., J.P.; Dr. J.B. Jefferys; Colonel S.J.L. Hardie, D.S.O., LL.D.; Mr J.T. Murray; and Alderman F. Pette, J.P. Also at the request of the Commission Lady Hall became a member in December 1956. The report was conducted between 1955 and 1958.

The Commission conducted its research through visiting retail, wholesale, and various other Co-operative societies. They received written evidence from societies, circulated questionnaires to all retail societies, and also commissioned two special investigations into the sources and uses of Co-operative capital and into the pattern of Co-operative savings. The Commission was supplied with background research and statistical documents from the Co-operative Union, Co-operative Wholesale Society, and the Scottish Co-operative Wholesale Society. They also held formal meetings with representatives of the central executive of the Co-operative Union; Policy and General Purposes, Grocery, and Dry Goods Committees; the Scottish Co-operative Wholesale Society Grocery and Drapery and Furnishing Committees; the Co-operative Productive Federation; Co-operative Retail Services; the National Co-operative Managers’ Association; and the Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers and held informal discussions with Directors and officials of many Co-operative bodies. They held 35 full Co-operative Independent Commission meetings.

The Committee’s report and recommendations were presented to the Central Executive in 1958 alongside a minority report written by Colonel S.J.L. Hardie.


The collection is arranged to match the original filing system used by the Commission and devised by the secretary Mr C.A.R. Crosland.

Access Information

Some items in the collection are restricted until a hundred years after the creation date due to the senstitive nature of the information they contain.

All open materials, can be viewed by previous arrangement, Monday to Friday 10am to 5pm. Contact the Archivist at:

National Co-operative Archive, Co-operative College, Holyoake House, Hanover Street, Manchester  M60 0AS,

Acquisition Information

Donated to the National Co-operative Archive by the Plunkett Foundation in 2005.

Other Finding Aids


Archivist's Note

Description compiled May 2008- July 2008 by Adam Shaw, Assistant Archivist, National Co-operative Archive.

Appraisal Information

The collection contained many duplicate papers. These were not retained.


None expected

Related Material

Hugh Gaitskell papers held at University College London (GB 0103 GAITSKELL).


Co-operative Independent Commission Report (1958)