HC Deb 02 July 1979 vol 969 cc890-2
11. Mr. Rooker

asked the Secretary of State for Trade if he will make a statement on the Government's plans to promote competition in the retail sector by favouring development of hypermarkets.

Mr. Eyre

Large stores such as hypermarkets can offer price advantages and convenience to some shoppers, but specialist shops and the small shopkeepers have an important role to play, particularly in catering for people who prefer a greater degree of personal service. We believe the public interest is best served if the retail trade is allowed to evolve in response to its market without Government intervention. Local conditions need, of course, to be taken into account when new developments are considered by planning authorities.

Mr. Rooker

How can the Minister, having just made that statement, agree with the Minister of State who, in a recent speech to the Industrial Society, gave unqualified support for out-of-town hypermarkets, which can be reached only by energy-consuming private vehicles? Why cannot we have these large stores in the city centres so that the old folk who have the benefit of concessionary fares may take advantage of some of the cheap prices?

Mr. Eyre

The hon. Gentleman is heavily misrepresenting the nature of my right hon. Friend's speech, which conformed exactly with what I said. The hon. Member raises planning matters which are the responsibility of the Secretary of State for the Environment. However, advice issued to local authorities recently says that large stores of this kind should, wherever possible, be located in the urban areas.

Mr. Emery

Will my hon. Friend make certain that he does not favour any specific type of retail development? Will he ensure that there is an equal amount of opportunity for the small trader, the ordinary shop and the hypermarket? We want a fair structure of competition, not one section being favoured at the expense of another.

Mr. Eyre

I assure my hon. Friend that my right hon. Friend will continue to be absolutely impartial in these matters.

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