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Mr. Forth: On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Can you confirm to the House that following that substantial and overwhelming vote, the composition of the Standing Committee to consider the Bill in detail will reflect the views and wishes of the House as expressed in the Second Reading debate and vote, in order that the Committee may do its job properly?
Mr. Deputy Speaker:
The right hon. Gentleman is well aware of how these matters are arranged, and that is
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a matter for the Committee of Selection, not the Chair. I am sure that the Committee will consider it in the usual way.
Mike Gapes: On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I seek your advice. As you are aware, I was present for almost the entirety of the debate, but regrettably, I was not called to speak because a closure motion was moved. I therefore voted against closure, but I would like your advice on how I can pursue my interest in the Criminal Law (Amendment) (Householder Protection) Bill in future, and on whether
Mr. Oliver Heald (North-East Hertfordshire) (Con): On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Given that the Government's policy in the area debated today has been massively repudiated in a vote on the Floor of the House, have you had any request from the Home Secretary to come here and make a statement apologising to the householders of Britain for not being prepared to stand up for them against the fear and concern that burglary cause?
Mr. Deputy Speaker: There has hardly been time for me to receive such a request since the result of the vote was announced, but it is now a matter of record, and I am sure that the Government will respond as they see fit.
Mr. Geoffrey Clifton-Brown: On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. You will be aware of the rule change that all questions that are not answered at Prorogation fall. I therefore tabled a written parliamentary question to every Department asking how many questions had fallen in that way. I received various answers from various Departments, ranging from four to zero. I did not receive an answer from the Ministry of Defence, so I tabled a pursuant question, and eventually received the answer that there were no questions outstanding at Prorogation. I did some research, however, and found that 21 questions had in fact fallen under this procedure. Would you please rule that when the Government answer written questions, the answers should be truthful and full? Furthermore, would you be prepared to recommend that this matter be referred to the Procedure Committee, to see whether the rule should be altered? It seems to me to be a charter for Departments not to have to answer questions that they do not like.
Mr. Deputy Speaker:
On the hon. Gentleman's first point, the way in which Ministers reply to hon. Members is entirely a matter for them and is not a point of order for the Chair. On his second point, it is open to any Member of the House to make suggestions to the Procedure Committee, which I suggest he does if he wishes to pursue the matter.
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Mr. Dismore: On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. My understanding was that private Members' Bills were unwhipped business, but I was impressed, although rather disappointed, by the activities of the Opposition Whips, who seem to have gone out of their way to ensure that Opposition Members turned up, effectively whipping the business. The closure motion was moved by the Opposition Chief Whip, and Tellers were put in for both sides in the second vote
Mr. Clifton-Brown: I am grateful for your ruling, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Nevertheless, it is a serious matter when a Department that is asked how many questions have fallen answers that no questions remain unanswered, but when I research the matter, I find that 21 questions remain unanswered. It seems a very serious matter that Ministers are answering questions in a way that means that the public might misinterpret them.
Mr. Deputy Speaker: I understand how the hon. Gentleman feels about this matter. It is a serious matter, and I draw his attention to a written ministerial statement made by the Leader of the House on 21 July 2004 at column 35WS, where the new arrangements to minimise such answers are set out. As I said before, however, I think that this is a matter that the hon. Gentleman should pursue in the way that I suggested.
Dr. Alan Whitehead (Southampton, Test) (Lab): I was delighted to be selected to present this Adjournment debate. It concerns a relatively new phenomenon in shopping, which will have substantial implications for all of us, but which the House has rarely, if ever, discussed it in detail. It will affect the way we shop and the way we plan retail placement and logistics, and will have implications for the high street and the vitality of our town and city centres.
Over the past 20 years or so, we have had a similar shock in the way in which we do our shopping, with the development of out-of-town shopping centres, major superstores and hypermarkets. Although those are now very much part of our shopping lives, it is fair to say that the Government have successfully planned a future through planning policy guidance and other measures so that we have those stores and the protection and enhancement of high streets and town centres.
"Despite the rate and scale of new developments, there is likely to be considerable rigidity in the basic framework now existing. The changes that are likely to take place in shopping over the next twenty years are only marginal within the established context."
That was in a year when six superstores and no out-of-town hypermarkets opened. By 1987, no fewer than 50 superstores and three out-of-town hypermarkets had opened. Clearly, Neddy's crystal ball was somewhat wonky.
Yet in the next two years, 145 superstores and four out-of-town hypermarkets opened. In that wave of shopping we had gone from denial to resignation in 15 years, but five years after that, PPG6 appeared on the scene and it was found that we could do something about it with planning, and the Government could intervene. In 1992, the hon. Member for Banbury (Tony Baldry), who was then a junior environment Minister, said:
"Town centres should remain the anchor of our retailing system We now have a plan 1ed approach to development . . . we are grappling with the concept of sustainable developmentpromising development today that will not compromise the choices of our children tomorrow".
With revised PPG6 and with the new planning policy statement 6 in draft form, this Government have been successful in promoting action to ensure that the explosive growth of out-of-town centres, which was widely regarded as detrimental to the maintenance of comparison shopping in town centres, was tempered. The figures and the way in which new developments are taking place demonstrate the success of that policy.
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We are now facing a new wave of retail development, and many people believe, just as they did in 1987 and earlier, that nothing much can be done about it and that it will simply work its way through the systemperhaps, as optimistic forecasters suggest, without effect; after all, it is a weightless form of shopping. However, that is not true. The ordering is different, but the logistics of delivery are real. The packaging is real; the products are real; and they work in a very different way from the logistics, which, in just a couple of decades, have informed our system of hypermarket, out-of-town and just-in-time-shopping deliveries to supply them.
It is sobering to consider the rise of internet shopping in the past couple of years. Perhaps some of us have been lulled by the dotcom disasters of a few years ago, and many people believed that that activity might not take off. However, it has taken off and will undoubtedly expand.
Some 12 million people shopped online in 1994. Some £2.6 billion was spent online in the last three months of 2004. That represented no less than a 44 per cent. increase on the same three months of 2003. Of course, we must put that in context. Total retail sales in 2004 were £246 billion. If we compare the latest available full year figures for internet sales, in 2003, approximately £39 billion was spent on internet sales as a whole, of which some £11.3 billion represented household internet shopping. That is not an enormous proportion of the total retail spend, but it is rising enormously fast a rise that shows every sign of increasing rapidity as the years pass.
Internet shopping is very much part of our shopping landscape and is already spawning logistical challenges. Indeed, the stunning performance of internet shopping over the Christmas period, associated with poor in-store retail figures, leads Verdict, the shopping consultant, to suggest that
However, that is done on the basis of what one might describe as the opposite of existing logistics. Goods are shipped from manufacturers or importers to large warehouses. They are ordered on a just-in-time basis and trucked to stores. The public arrive and select several purchases from what has been assembled for them in the stores. For internet shopping, goods are assembled in regional or semi-local warehouses and are then picked for the customer, repackaged and distributed individually to the customer's home.
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An additional logistical stage is therefore included in the process. Instead of the customer comparing and picking the goods, each order is separately packaged and dispatched via increasingly large fleets of white vans to the residential neighbourhood in which the customer lives.
There is a variant on that method of organising internet shopping. Some internet grocery providers, such as Tesco, pick from their existing stores and redistribution is added to the end of the logistical process, although Johnson and Jönson point out that that is an unsustainable practice as volume increases, and that traditional handling in stores will have to give way to dedicated pick-and-distribute warehouses.
As I said, PPS6 refers to sustainability in shopping. How sustainable is internet shopping in terms of what the Government are trying to achieve for future shopping patterns? The assumption that it is sustainable has been skewed by the apparent weightlessness of the order. Some elements undoubtedly are sustainable. If one downloads music instead of purchasing a CD, one saves a substantial amount of energy, but the moment one burns music on to one's own CD, even if has previously been downloaded, the energy costs are far higher than if it had been produced in the factory.
Studies at the university of Northumberland and elsewhere suggest that the picture is at least ambiguous. Michael Kundt, the Wuppertal institute lead author of European Union's Eurodigital report, states:
"Online products move the environmental burden from producer to consumer . . . there are no big gains for ordering products off the internet . . . the small delivery trucks consume as much energy as going to the shops yourself would."
There are several issues relating to the sustainability and planning of internet shopping. First, as the range of goods offered expands, it will become less easy to post items, and delivery by separate systems will increase. Secondly, the sheer volume of individual deliveries will mean that residential districts will increasingly become populated by many separate white vans, which will reverse the existing distribution patterns. Thirdly, how are those white vans to deliver items such as groceries reliably when the customer is out at work? Should we perhaps all have a lockable drop-boxthe Royal Mail, among others, has experimented with theseor should the white van keep calling back? Many undeliverable parcels are left at the carrying company's centre, at a separate customer collection point. Several such centres are being expanded for that purpose. Of course, a customer going to a centre to collect a parcel will probably expend as much petrol as they would have used going to the shops in the first place.
Fourthly, we might achieve sustainability if internet shopping completely replaced comparison shopping, but of course it has not done so. Internet shopping has taken part of the comparison market, but other parts have stayed and undoubtedly will stay for a long time, for a number of reasons, such as the nature of comparison shopping and the fact that many people like to go to shopping centres to compare goods. There is, however, a danger that some of the elements of comparison shopping that sustain shopping centres will be stripped away, just as they were during the move from in-town shopping to out-of-town superstores.
The additional packaging required for repacking the goods and sending them to the customer's home is a new factor in the sustainability continuum. The use of the
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small vehicles that will necessarily be the cornerstone of this new wave of logistics represents a reversal of the logic behind larger vehicles being the norm for the previous logistical way of shopping.
Is this, as the late Nicholas Ridley suggested, something that is bigger than all of us, or should we be thinking about the issue just as we did when out-of-town shopping first became a serious proposition? I believe that we should. The Government should introduce a policy on distribution and logistics for internet shopping, just as they introduced a successful policy on out-of-town shopping. We need to think about where the distribution might take place, and about the planning implications of the inevitable rise in the number of picking warehouses. Will we, as a result, have a new wave of disguised out-of-town shopping, this time involving picking warehouses instead of shops? Will the places that start out as picking warehouses remain picking warehouses, or will they become yet more out-of-town retail establishments?
Could we change the nature of drop-off, perhaps through sponsored drop-boxes? After all, households throughout the country have over last few years been issued with drop-boxes, largely at public expense. They are called wheelie bins, and we drop our rubbish into them. More recently, of course, we have begun to sort our rubbish and to drop our recyclates into them.
If we did not wish to go down the drop-box route, could we think about how district centres might be revived? Instead of having a large building on an industrial estate a long way away from houses, would it not make sense to have district drop-off centres? Either people could put the drop-off centre as the address to which they wanted the item sent, and collect it at leisure, or district drop-off centres could be used as collection centres for returns, or for items undelivered within walking distance of houses in particular areas, rather than in relatively remote locations. In rural areas, could not that perhaps be a new role for village stores in communities that are suffering from a substantial decline in business for shops?
Right now, most importantly, we should not ignore internet shopping or simply assume that it will have no effect. It will, and in my view we should be establishing a planning policy for it. We should be discussing with internet retail providers how its distributive and logistical effects can be ameliorated. My question is: are we doing this, and if not, why not?
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