HC Deb 01 December 1993 vol 233 cc1022-3
2. Sir Michael Neubert

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what representations he has received in response to his consultative paper on charter markets.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Environment (Mr. Tony Baldry)

We have received a variety of representations both for and against our proposals and are carefully considering whether to introduce legislation to remove from local authorities the right to object to the establishment of new markets within the common law distance of 6⅔ mile[...].

Sir Michael Neubert

Is my hon. Friend aware that a proposal in the name of competition to abolish without compensation the centuries-old charter rights of markets such as Romford market in my constituency while leaving intact the rights of private market operators would lack a certain conviction? Does not the rapid growth of unregulated temporary markets and car boot sales now provide a major outlet for the sale of stolen property? Is not that a much greater threat to fair competition, and should not dealing with it be the Government's priority?

Mr. Baldry

I think that there has been something of a misunderstanding. It is being suggested that the proposals would in some way remove such markets, which certainly is not the case: local authorities would continue to own and operate them. All that we are considering removing is the arbitrary power of local authorities to exercise a monopoly right over any rival operator who seeks to bring new trade to an area. I have no doubt that traditional markets that have stood the test of time over the centuries will continue to do so, and to compete with the best.

Mr. Jim Marshall

Does the Minister accept that the vast majority of local authorities oppose the revocation of charter rights? Will he confirm that he has received many representations from people who trade at local authority markets, and that those people are opposed to the revocation? As there is no evidence that local authority charter rights act against the public interest, will the Minister ensure that deregulation does not include their revocation?

Mr. Baldry

It is worth recalling that many local authorities—by my reckoning, well over 150—have no such market rights, but they seem to manage perfectly well using their planning powers. It is also interesting to hear Labour Members defending ancient privileges granted by the Crown.