My hon. Friend makes a good point, and I would expect nothing less. Independents are very much part of the story, and they are necessary, but large companies developing real estate and operating shops create massive employment, massive taxation and a massive contribution to urban regeneration, although that takes nothing from the validity of my hon. Friend’s point.
Things have changed. Everyone knows that in the past, apart from the high street, most towns had parades of shops. The developers of the masses of residential areas across London and the home counties from the time trains opened up those places would, for every few hundred houses, build a parade of shops that included a fruiterer, a greengrocer, a fishmonger, a general grocer and so on. Various things in the cycle, certainly in my lifetime, have kept those parades going.
I remember when the supermarkets started to take hold and some of those shops became empty and were replaced by banks, which were opening chains of local branches. It is hard to imagine now, but there was a big fight for which bank could get there first. Then there were estate agents. Again, if there was a spare unit, people would open an estate agency. There always seemed to be something, but that is not the case now.
With the internet there is less demand for individual units. There is plenty of supply, because, in many cases, the units were built before the second world war, if not before the first world war.