An example from  the West Midlands was held up to MEPs as a model for corporate social responsibility during a debate in the European Parliament.

Anthea McIntyre said more and more companies were embracing the fact that they were part of their community - and she reminded them of an early example from her own region.

She told how chocolate giant Cadbury voluntarily developed Bournville - a model village on the south side of Birmingham – for their factory workers to live in. It was described as one of the nicest places to live in Britain.

Miss McIntyre, Conservative MEP for the West Midlands, was speaking during a debate in Strasbourg on corporate social responsibility (CSR).

She said: "Cadbury really put social responsibility at the heart of their company’s ethos."

As Conservative employment spokesman, Miss McIntyre has spoken against any legislative imposition of CSR requirements and believes that true social and environmental responsibility involves going beyond a company's legal requirements.

She said: "Many companies are progressively integrating CSR into their company strategies on a voluntary basis and they should be welcomed and encouraged.

"It is not just a benefit to society; it benefits the company too, often helping them to compete in the labour market and to become an employer of choice.

"I would like to see the Commission and Member States promoting the voluntary take up of CSR initiatives. But let’s ensure that companies always retain the flexibility and freedom to shape their own CSR policies according to their specific circumstances and the needs of their employees."