Select Committee on Agriculture Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence


Memorandum submitted by Mr John Watts, Transport and General Workers Union (P8)

  May I, as a representative of the workers in New Covent Garden Market, report to you an impression of the atmosphere in the Market now as opposed to recent years?

  It seems that a very large cloud has lifted from above the heads of the ordinary Market man. For far too long people in the Market have been in doubt about their future; with various Governments have come different ideas about the need for a Wholesale Market close to one of the biggest tourist industries in the world.

  That doubt has finally been removed by the present Agricultural Minister, Mr Nick Brown. Yes, he said there is a need for a Wholesale Market and that vote of confidence gave everybody a great lift. Since then, all parties in the Market have intensified their efforts to find new ways to directly involve themselves in servicing, catering and tourism—industries that New Covent Garden feel they can play a vital part in.

  They have been able to do this because now they feel that they are going to be around for long enough to see the results of the new initiatives.

  Over recent years when the future of the Market was uncertain, the innovative thinking that was needed had been stifled by the thought that the Market may be sold. This did not encourage our younger people to look for ways to improve services, rather it encouraged an attitude of "wait and see what is going to happen to us". This has held up our progress.

  Now that we know what is likely to happen to us the changes that have already been made in a very short time will astonish any of the "Doubting Thomases".

  It seems all that was needed was to lift the attitude that we were going to be dumped, and replace it with a vote of confidence that we have been given.

  Since that time, all parties that are concerned with the Market's success have realised that to survive and improve our service, we must change and evolve; to this end we have changed our opening times, to avoid traffic problems in Central London. 95 per cent of our deliveries are now completed outside the "rush hour" times, something which Mr Livingstone is very much aware of. Men are starting work many hours earlier than hitherto, simply to accommodate the catering trade and its demands for more time to choose the products they need to keep the tourist trade happy and expanding. The employers and workforce are putting in this effort because they can at last see a future for themselves and their families.

  The choice of service available has expanded to an unbelievable degree, the long-term aim is obviously a one stop Market; this would cut down the number of journeys needed for the catering trade to supply their customers. A factor very much to be taken into consideration in environmental terms. Our Flower Market is without equal in Europe for quality and service. We already offer a top quality supplier for various kinds of smoked fish and meat products. We have the facility to provide all sorts of preparation services for horticultural produce, be it salad, vegetables, fruit from all over the world—some of which people who have been in the trade for 50 years have never heard of. If it's horticultural and you want it New Covent Garden can get it for you, any day and any month of the year, 24 hours a day.

  Our services include Ice Sculpure of the highest quality, Melon Carving, Exotic Fruit Juices, Cheese suppliers, Wine Importers—the list is endless.

  Yes, New Covent Garden has changed and will change further, we are determined to succeed. After all we succeeded for 300 years on our old site, and we see no reason why we should not beat that at our new one.

17th January 2001


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