Retail Sales

Oral Answers to Questions — Trade and Industry – in the House of Commons at 1:47 pm on 22nd January 1997.

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Photo of Sir David Amess Sir David Amess , Basildon 1:47 pm, 22nd January 1997

To ask the President of the Board of Trade if he will make a statement on recent trends in retail sales. [10602]

Mr. John M. Taylor:

There has generally been good growth in retail sales in recent months compared with the similar period in 1995. The latest official statistics show sales volumes 3.5 per cent. higher than a year ago.

Photo of Sir David Amess Sir David Amess , Basildon

Is my hon. Friend aware that many retailers in Basildon, Leigh-on-Sea and Southend are reporting an upturn in trade, in spite of it having been a very difficult time for them? Does he share their anxiety that the threatened imposition of the social chapter, the minimum wage and new taxation policies advocated by the Opposition might damage the recovery?

Mr. Taylor:

I have a message for the voters of Basildon, Leigh-on-Sea and Southend: they are right to be anxious. I am anxious—my hon. Friend is right to be anxious—that nothing so dreadful should happen to these good people that they should be burdened with a Labour Government.

Photo of Gerry Sutcliffe Gerry Sutcliffe , Bradford South

As we are talking about retail trends, is the Minister aware of the problem affecting mail order companies? Has he made representations to the Treasury on the problems that the industry faces and the huge effect that they could have on the jobs and services that it provides? Will he make representations to his colleagues in the Treasury to ensure that the VAT argument is sorted out?

Mr. Taylor:

I am aware of the problems—as they are perceived to be—to which the hon. Gentleman refers, but he is right to identify them as matters for the Treasury. I would not be offended if he made his own direct representations.

Photo of Mrs Elizabeth Peacock Mrs Elizabeth Peacock , Batley and Spen

How much of the increase in retail sales was funded with cash, and how much was funded on credit?

Mr. Taylor:

I do not have the figures with me, but I believe that all the evidence suggests that increasing use is being made of credit facilities—not least, of course, of credit cards.