APPENDICES TO THE MINUTES OF EVIDENCE
Memorandum submitted by Smithfield Market Tenants' Association (P 2)
The Smithfield Market Tenants' Association represents the traders at the Corporation of London Central Markets, known as Smithfield Market and we wish to submit the following to the Agriculture Committee for consideration during their short inquiry into New Covent Garden Market.
We understand the Committee will be looking at the work of the Market Authority, the future plans for the Market and its location. The Associations' members have reason to be concerned that the outcome of such a review could impact adversely on the operation of Smithfield Market and therefore their businesses.
The Association wrote to the Minister in May 2000 opposing an application made to him by the New Covent Garden Market Authority for consent to widen the scope of their activities and provide amongst other new products chilled meat and poultry products.
We advised the Minister that Smithfield Market traders had, over the last decade, struggled to meet the demands of a major refurbishment programme, which caused considerable disruption to their businesses and consequent loss of trade. The work was essential to the continued operation of the Market which had to comply with the highest requirements of the new standards imposed by the Fresh Meat Hygiene Regulations, which in the absence of specific provisions to cover wholesale markets, were those required of a cutting plant. The project involved considerable financial investment by both the Corporation of London and the Market traders.
The refurbishment costs borne by individual traders, many of whom are small family businesses, represented the biggest single capital investment they had ever made and it involved a significant financial risk. It will take most traders many years to pay for this investment and their ability to pay depends on the success of the Market. Market traders and market jobs are dependent on a successful Market for businesses to be competitive and profitable.
A sea change in the working practices at Smithfield was required to satisfy the new Hygiene Regulations and Health and Safety procedures. The necessary changes involved a considerable loss of jobs on the market, but despite "informed opinion" a new agreement between traders (employers), T&GWU and the Corporation of London was achieved. All parties involved believed the changes would provided job security for Market employees.
The Market traders have endured massive disruption to their businesses and have lost customers and suppliers during the construction phases of the refurbishment of Smithfield Market, as well as having suffered from the disastrous impact of BSE and the many food scares caused by E.coli etc. Throughout the traders believed they would be allowed to compete on a level playing field once approved status under the Licensing requirements of the Hygiene Regulations was achieved, and they do not expect the common law rights of the Market to be put aside by the Minister.
We believe that any extension of the activities into meat and poultry etc on the New Covent Garden market site, however limited in scope and method initially, will inevitably be allowed to develop and that the Market Authority intends to establish a rival market in competition to Smithfield. This would contravene the common law rights of Smithfield Market that prevent a rival market being set up within a radius of six and two third miles.
New Covent Garden Market is a market for Horticultural Products. We believe that if it is allowed to trade in meat and poultry products in any way it must constitute part of the Market activities and benefit from this association. Therefore, the Market Authority should not be allowed scope to circumvent the common law Market Franchise rights of existing markets.
10 January 2001