HC Deb 23 June 1977 vol 933 cc506-7W
25. Mr. Wells

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will make a statement about the negotiations between his Department, the Covent Garden Market Authority and the users of the market.

Mr. Strang

When the legislation on Covent Garden Market's finances was before the House earlier this year it was made plain and generally accepted that the tenants and users would have to make some contribution to help secure its financial viability in addition to the much larger contribution by the taxpayer.

It is for the Authority to negotiate with the tenants and users, and both it and the Government have made it clear that they would much prefer agreed voluntary arrangements. However, despite extended consultations, until the day before yesterday the tenants' association would not agree to make any contribution. Accordingly, by exercise of its statutory powers under the Covent Garden Market Act 1961, the Authority decided to increase existing market entrance charges in buyers from 1st July and has submitted for my confirmation a scheme of charges on wholesalers' sales of produce to come into operation on 25th July.

On Tuesday, however, a poll of the tenants' association showed that a majority of tenants are prepared to see the negotiation of an appropriate rent supplement together with the introduction of entrance charges on senders' commercial vehicles, which together might raise sufficient additional revenue to make the Authority's statutory scheme unnecessary. I understand that the Authority is consulting urgently with the interests concerned about this. The Authority will, however, need to be satisfied that binding arrangements raising sufficient revenue can be agreed with the parties concerned before withdrawing the statutory scheme that it has submitted.