The Birmingham-based John Lewis partnership and a list of other British companies were highlighted in European parliament as prime examples of successful employee ownership schemes.

Anthea McIntyre, Conservative employment spokesman in the European Parliament, said the UK had more than 100 such companies contributing more than £25 billion to the economy.

And she gave a roll call of UK businesses which were achieving better performance by making their staff their stakeholders.

Miss McIntyre, Conservative MEP for the West Midlands, addressed the parliament's Employment Committee in Brussels as it considered a new report to encourage the development of Employee Financial Participation (EFP) in Europe. The report highlights the potential of such schemes for both workers and employers and suggests a number of measures which could be taken at EU level to promote EFP.

She said: "I very much support the need for awareness-raising campaigns, exchanges of best practice, more transparency and information, the promotion of financial education with respect to retail and equities investment. 

"There are several excellent examples of EFP particularly in my own country, for example John Lewis - a large and well known retailer. John Lewis is an employee-owned partnership model which operates differently from private-equity backed businesses and stockmarket-listed companies as instead of profits flowing to the shareholders, at John Lewis they flow to the staff in the form of the annual bonus.

"There are more than 100 companies in the UK with significant employee ownership. These include some well know names such as Blackwell bookshops, jam makers Wilkin & Sons - who make wonderful jams and sauces – and Scott Bader, a polymers manufacturer. 

"A survey of financial data from more than 250 firms (both private and employee owned)  backs up other studies showing that employee-owned businesses typically out-perform those companies in which employees do not have an ownership stake or the right to participate in decision-making. 

"Employees who have a stake in the company are more committed to delivering quality and more flexible in supporting the needs of the business."