Select Committee on Agriculture Minutes of Evidence

Examination of witnesses (Questions 220 - 228)



  220. You would be happy to send Covent Garden naked into the battlefield?
  (Ms Quin) As far as I know we do not send Covent Garden naked into any forum. We work closely with the Market Authority and I would have thought that was very clear from what I have said so far.

  221. To come back to my earlier point, it does need investment and some pump-priming to get it into a really effective, competitive situation against, say, the power of the City Corporation?
  (Ms Quin) Let me say I think the market has in any case shown a lot of initiative and enterprise in the way it has brought in some new activities in recent years. Let me say too, I hope I have made it clear that we are working with them both on the immediate future and on the longer term in terms of disposal of the market.

  222. It is still comparatively minor.
  (Ms Quin) I have not denied that. I have said at every stage that it is subject to these legal and financial restraints.

Mr Opik

  223. It sounds to me strategically—and everyone agrees—as if there is a co-ordinating role to be played when one looks at long-term planning of markets in London. Would Ministers be willing to discuss with the GLA who would lead the co-ordinating role?
  (Ms Quin) Certainly, but our main priority for the moment is to discuss with the Authority itself its plans for the future.


  224. Minister, are you conscious that the decision which you will have to take as to whether to permit these new activities—face-to-face activities as you have described them—coming to the market is not just a decision about the future of Covent Garden and, in a sense, it is a statement about how you see the London markets themselves developing? Would you accept that is the case, that the implications are really quite important about this issue; it is not a local decision?
  (Ms Quin) I would accept that it does have competitive implications for London markets.

  225. So when you take that decision, in a sense, the whole issue of the future of the markets is bound to come into focus. Let us say you were to approve the installation of new sorts of business at Covent Garden and then you would, by doing that, be signalling a competition within the markets in a sense which they do not at the moment have in that full competitive sense. That would be true?
  (Ms Quin) I accept that there are implications there and for that reason I think we would need to look carefully at what legal advice we received and whether or not, as a result of that, further discussions needed to take place either with other departments or other authorities.

  226. If that were to be the case then the whole issue of your relationship with Covent Garden and the whole programme of liberating both itself and yourself from that tie might become a more urgent matter?
  (Ms Quin) Possibly but there is a commitment to early legislation so I am not sure that it would materially affect that timetable.

  227. I wanted to clarify that issue and just to point out that I think the Committee would feel that that decision is a hinge of where the future of markets lies.
  (Ms Quin) I am not in control of how the Committee interprets my answers.

  228. Thank you very much for coming. I think it has been an extremely helpful session. Are we due to see Joyce again? It may well be but none of us know what manifestation or status we will have when we next meet, at least in this sort of forum. Thank you very much for being such a regular interlocutor of the Committee and thank you very much, in particular, for coming for this inquiry, which I think we have all found very interesting indeed. We are going to, no doubt, wade our way through the next batch of representations that shower upon us following today's session. Thank you very much indeed and thank you Mr Llewelyn for your supporting role.
  (Ms Quin) Thank you very much.

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