Select Committee on Agriculture Minutes of Evidence

Supplementary Memorandum submitted by the Assistant Town Clerk, Corporation of London (P9)

  I attended the meeting of the Committee on 24 January, when Mr Mills gave his evidence and noted that my original fears were not ill-founded.

  Mr Mills made a number of statements about the Corporation which I believe may have given a wrong impression to members of the Committee. Some of the points were taken up by the Committee members (as a result of my earlier memorandum?) but a couple struck me as needing a little extra explanation or expansion. Accordingly, I attach an addendum to my earlier memorandum which I hope may give the Committee a fuller picture.


  1.  This note has been prepared in response to certain comments made about the Corporation by Mr Leif Mills at the meeting of the Agriculture Committee on 24 January 2001.

  2.  First, Mr Mills referred the Committee to a meeting called by the Minister on the 8th March 2000 and attended by representatives of all the wholesale food and produce markets in London. Mr Mills advised the Committee that he had told the Minister at that meeting that it was intended that New Covent Garden Market should develop into a "one-stop" market. Mr Mills also drew the Committee's attention to the fact that the Corporation did not object to his statement at the meeting.

  3.  The clear implication of the juxta-position of those two statements was that the Corporation did not have an objection (at that time) to the proposal.

  4.  Mr Mills did not tell the Committee that the Corporation had made clear its opposition to the proposal prior to the Meeting with the Minister and had confirmed its opposition immediately after the meeting in a letter addressed to the Minister and copied to Mr Mills. That letter explained why the Corporation had not taken issue with Mr Mills at the meeting and a copy of that letter is attached [not printed] to this note.

  5.  Secondly, on more than one occasion Mr Mills said to the Committee that the Minister had not given his consent to the recent applications for permission to be given to traders wishing to sell non-horticultural goods at New Covent Garden Market because the Corporation had not responded to the Minister.

  6.  The Corporation has responded to the Minister and has made it clear that it maintains its objections to the proposals.

  7.  The Corporation acknowledges the Minister's special role regarding the future of New Covent Garden Market and his national role regarding wholesale food and produce markets.

  8.  The Corporation does not know why the Minister has not determined the applications but assumes that he recognises that he has a potential conflict of interest if he allows the market, whose profits are payable to the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, to change its nature at the expense of others in the capital, which are not Government owned.

  9.  The Corporation invites the Committee to recognise that New Covent Garden is the only wholesale market that is owned by the Government and that there are likely to be potential problems for the other wholesale markets in London if the future of New Covent Garden Market, in isolation, is given Government permission to expand the nature of its trading activities.

5 February 2001


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