British Retail — [Sir Alan Meale in the Chair]

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 3:04 pm on 6th March 2013.

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Photo of Marcus Jones Marcus Jones Conservative, Nuneaton 3:04 pm, 6th March 2013

I thank my hon. Friend for that comment. I would certainly join him in calling for that. Many businesses in my constituency have contacted me on that very point.

Let me move quickly on, because other Members want to speak. The second issue that is vital to managing the transition in our town centres is car parking and particularly short-stay car parking charges. Car parking charges are a tax on our town centres; they very much detract from them and lead people to look for alternative shopping destinations. There are a number of things we could do about that. First, the Government could work more with local authorities and even incentivise them to reduce car parking charges. Secondly, I would like them, perhaps through the Department for Communities and Local Government or town teams, to work with local businesses, local authorities and private car parking firms to see how we can develop systems to incentivise shoppers. For example, we could, in partnership with retailers, put in place systems that took a certain amount off the customer’s car parking charge for every purchase they made. Utilising such a system could help some of our small and medium-sized town centres.

The third issue is regulation. I would like the Minister to advocate to every Department the idea that any unnecessary regulation that has an impact on our town centres and high streets should be completely resisted. A classic example is the proposed EU harmonisation of permitted vitamin and mineral levels in food supplements. My right hon. Friend the Health Secretary is alive to this issue, and he is trying to resist the EU’s directive, which could impact on our town centres and high streets. The industry thinks that 4,000 jobs could be lost if the directive is implemented, and many of them would be in small health food shops and in health food chains across the country.

To sum up, we cannot ignore structural change, and the Government are hard-pressed in terms of what they can do, but they can make a difference in the three areas I have identified. There are ways in which they can help to manage structural change, and I look forward to hearing what the Minister has to tell us about how the Government can help at this difficult time for our retailers.