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Local Markets

Volume 755: debated on Wednesday 23 July 2014

Question for Short Debate

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty’s Government how they intend to help local markets throughout the United Kingdom prosper and expand the national economy.

My Lords, throughout my life I have loved my local market, not only for providing the necessities of life—I increasingly need and cherish a diet of fresh fruit and vegetables—but for providing surprises and, above all, the serendipitous. When I was a poor student in Newcastle-under-Lyme, I would plunder the Saturday market, as cauliflowers and other vegetables were sold off at half-price in the late afternoon. Forty years later, my wife and I returned to that same Midlands market and found a stall dispensing prized historic Oxford English Dictionaries at knock-down prices to add to my home library of English dictionaries. My thrill at those bargains led me to go further and bid for a splendid acoustic guitar to add to another jackdaw collection of mine—guitars. My cheeky bid was roundly rebutted and rightly so; but the thrill of the market had scored again.

These days, my wife and I cherish our local Cheshire markets: Frodsham for fruit, veg and eggs, when you know the local farms from where they are sourced, and slippers, cheap and comfortable; or Neston, the home of Lady Hamilton, which is on the silted-up Dee Estuary and is a fabulous market for fresh fruit and vegetables, exotic bread and plants. Nor do we ever neglect to banter over a cup of coffee with the regular coffee trader who returns on Fridays after servicing summer music festivals around the country. These days, my wife and I schedule visits to local markets on our holiday travels. Last year, we filled up the car with purchases from contrasting markets in Yorkshire: the Saturday market in Beverley, near the historic Minster; and later the extensive and renowned Kirkgate market in Leeds. Perhaps the Minister can confirm whether the Government are still funding the local enterprise initiative “How Bizaar”, which permits new start-up traders 12 weeks’ free rental for testing new products, services or business ideas.

Britain is rich in local markets. We should prize them for what they are and strive to maintain and enhance their essence, but also ready them for the challenges of modern life. Today we hold the Government to account on their clarion call, published in May this year: “Love Your Local Market”. In 2009 there were some 1,100 traditional markets, representing a worrying decline. Some 38,000 market traders showed a decline of some 14% in five years. Retail markets employed some 95,000 people in 2008, with a further 10,000 employed in wholesale markets. The average spend of a declining number of shoppers has fallen, despite the total spend calculated at £3.5 billion for retail markets as a whole.

However, there is evidence that traditional markets create more employment than many other forms of retail—perhaps the Minister could confirm that—and that they support new business creation by providing low-cost entry to retail trading. In 2013, the NMTF’s “First Pitch” scheme launched 100 new entrepreneurs on traditional markets. Importantly, markets simply do not discriminate by age, class, gender, sex, ethnicity, religion or nationality. Young people fired up with the desire to try their hand at a business can freely open up a stall in a traditional market. The flexibility that is the hallmark of markets reflects the characteristic flexibility of start-up SME entrepreneurs to provide and respond to what the public want in terms of both regular and changing needs. The ethnic diversity that is a feature of so many of our contemporary markets offers visible proof of a society that is integrating: the diversity of people is reflected in the diversity of the goods, and the diversity of the goods bespeaks the diversity of the people.

However, we have problems. Many indoor, outdoor and covered markets are underfunded, undervalued and lacking support from their local communities. This often reflects unfavourably on the local authorities, which are charged with overseeing the local markets in their jurisdiction. Not only are the local authorities being rigorously held to account for every penny spent—with cuts that in my view undermine the very raison d’être of local authorities—but in seeking help from the town hall, the local market, nestled outside in the town hall square, is usually at the back of the queue of competing demands. Market infrastructure is often poorly maintained, despite onerous service charges inflicted on the traders. Public sector cuts lead to downsizing of the nominal market services provided by the council, leading to poor market management. Reduced publicity budgets denude local authorities of the wherewithal to publicise the local market and guide potential visitors and shoppers with simple advice, such as where to park.

Understandably, some councils supplement depleted council coffers by reallocating income from market traders to other worthy council services, many of which are a statutory obligation; it is equally understandable that the traders in the square outside feel cheated. However, unlike other groups with claims on the council, the market trader is too busy minding the stall to indulge in special pleading. The admirable National Market Traders Federation does its best to organise its members, but the Government must redouble their efforts to understand the heartfelt cry of market traders wanting nothing more than to pitch outside to do their job.

I turn to the Minister, to test how far HMG can help a group worthy of nurturing. What are the Government’s mature reflections on the Portas review of high streets? Has her characterisation of markets as an untapped resource as part of a town’s integrated retail offer been followed through? Perhaps the Minister might offer some successful examples.

Given that the major supermarkets are now responding to the challenge of Aldi and Lidl, are the Government sanguine that discounters have grown while local markets have declined? While the £25,000 granted to the “Love Your Local Market” campaign run by the National Association of British Market Authorities was welcome, it hardly does justice to the problem. Can the Minister do something better than this annual flash in the pan? Can the Government point to national information campaigns for consumers, especially those encouraging the population to eat healthily, which specifically point to support for traditional markets? What financial help are the Government giving to help traders adapt to and adopt important consumer legislation? Examples, please.

Many markets are housed in old Victorian market halls. Garstang in Lancashire has one such small hall, supplementing its wonderful Thursday street market, but such halls need to be updated, not only to give a fillip to the local market but to improve the attraction of our town centres. Do the Government recognise responsibility for these? Many local traders are in fear of UK and EU legislation and need advice as to what they can and cannot do. The local council can often play an active role here in advising and inspecting with a benign eye. Perhaps the Minister can give more illustration of that.

The Government must invest in local markets, because they are thereby investing in our local communities. This would include good parking facilities—why not free to customers?; good toilet facilities and wi-fi; bright lighting; energy-efficient heating systems; regular cleaning and maintenance of the market space; engaging websites and social media; and home delivery or click-and-collect services. These are all commonplace in most UK retail spaces; why not for local markets? Will the Government also address the practical training needs of market traders, especially in the field of adopting new technologies, including e-commerce, social media and mobile card payments? Rather than wilting under the reach of Amazon, market traders can warm to new ways of advertising their wares, but government help is desirable. I have hinted at the attraction of tourism and day visitors to local markets and I hope that we can have a response on that.

I conclude by noting with pleasure that the NMTF has signed a memorandum of understanding with its European equivalents; can we have a response to that? I would also welcome responses to the CLG Committee’s Market Failure?: Can the Traditional Market Survive? report and to the NMTF’s excellent 2012 report Retail Markets in the UK. I would be most grateful to the Minister if he could cover that ground, which is so important to an important group in our lives, in the square outside the town hall.

My Lords, I warmly commend the noble Lord for securing this debate. I come with a sense of enormous self-reproach, since in my first role in government, 25 years ago, as a Minister responsible for local government, planning and communities, I never mentioned or did anything whatever about street markets. I say this as somebody who has spent my entire life in street markets. As a younger woman I shopped in Brixton market, founded in the 19th century. It sold lovely Afro-Caribbean produce in Electric Avenue, the first street to have electric lighting. Everything I wore, ate or gave anybody came from the market. In fact, it is rare for me not to be wearing a number of items of clothing that came from a market—even today, a number of the items I am wearing came from street markets.

Then I used to spend a great deal of time in—this is somewhere that the noble Lord may know well—Lower Marsh at the Cut, again founded in the mid-19th century. I met my friends and took my children for walks there. My whole life was in the street market. Most particularly, going back to the 16th century, there was East Street Market down the Walworth Road. That was a very special market on Saturdays.

I then became a Member of Parliament for Surrey. There, we had one of the historic charter markets—going right back to 1300—in Godalming and another in Haslemere. In that constituency, we saw the development of the farmers’ markets, which have been an extraordinary innovation. Milford had one of the first farmers’ markets. It was warmly and helpfully supported by the local authority and it provided an extraordinarily valuable outlet for local farmers. However, it also fulfilled a double purpose in ensuring that an increasingly urbanised community understood agriculture. Farmers’ markets—there is a wonderful one that meets under Humber Bridge each month—have a role in communication.

Then I moved on and, apart from a number of other markets, I now frequently have the privilege of visiting the markets in Worthing, where there are farmers’ markets and a very exotic French market, which is a frequent and popular event.

When we think about markets and retail space, for which competition is so intense, we understand how the juggernauts that are supermarkets have transformed shopping—in many ways, for the good. For those of us who find weekly shops particularly trying, going to a huge supermarket can be of great value. At the same time, there has been a further revolution with developments online and extraordinary changes in retail behaviour patterns.

However, the street markets in the hearts of our cities have in many ways an ever-greater value. I have the strong view that people’s lives are fragmented. The digital world means that too many experiences are virtual. The joy and pleasure of a street market is that it involves direct communication, discussion and dialogue, as well as the huge variety of which the noble Lord spoke. Frequently, it can be an outlet for someone who is starting up a business—maybe a craft industry. It provides an opportunity to test goods. We do not discuss it in these papers, although I suspect that there is a connection here with the explosion of car boot sales. They provide a similar experience for people, as they are about congregation and meeting. They have the hurly-burly of the market.

Whatever the convenience of shopping online, it is a fairly lonely experience. Similarly, the great supermarkets are like factories of purchasing; they are quite different from the communal experience. That was the evidence from the excellent report sponsored by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation. It suggested that the social benefits of markets can do a great deal to promote social cohesion, encourage different communities to intermingle, and provide community support and information. That evidence came from Professor Sophie Watson, who, I am delighted to say, is a professor of sociology at the excellent Open University. I am someone who always feels that I need evidence before I can hold forth on a subject. It is not a handicap that many politicians face but I like to look at the evidence before giving a strong view. Her evidence is that the markets are extraordinarily important sites of social interaction for all groups in the community but—fortunately for many of us in this House—most significantly for older people, especially women. Markets are important social spaces for mothers with young children, young people and families with children, particularly at weekends. That identifies with the younger me and the older me.

The report also argued that markets have a significant social inclusion role as places to linger. Often when people are in a hurry, there are few places to linger, and I always feel that charity shops, for all the condemnation they receive, provide a place of congregation, meeting and, very often, study. Whatever the subject of the charity shop, it is a place where people learn more about the charity. If you were president of Abbeyfield, for example, as the noble Baroness is, you would learn all about Abbeyfield. Then, of course, the social life of traders plays a significant role in creating that vibrant atmosphere in markets.

Tomorrow, there will be a debate on organic food and the health implications. Most unfortunately, I am unable to participate in it. I am at what I would describe as the extreme sceptic end of the organic food market arguments. It seems to me that what street markets provide is fresh, good value food which provides all the benefits that we are looking for.

I congratulate the Government and a succession of Ministers for taking steps on this—there will always be people who say that they should take further steps. We have had contributions on this from Grant Shapps, Eric Pickles, the Secretary of State, and Mark Prisk. A number of them talked about planning restrictions, small business rate relief and other provisions for towns. My preoccupation, about which noble Lords may hear a great deal in subsequent years, is the 2017 City of Culture, Kingston-upon-Hull. The contribution of street markets to that will be magnificent. I have spoken with the local authority about the work that it is undertaking to ensure that both the covered and the open markets are really fit for purpose. The noble Lord made many valuable comments about the facilities needed to make a market a flourishing success, not least cleanliness and toilet facilities, but cash machines are particularly important.

In the city of Kingston-upon-Hull, there is great expectation about the number of visitors who will come during the year of culture. Preparations are well under way. In Londonderry/Derry, they had twice the visitor numbers during the City of Culture year; Hull expects to have three times the number. With 1 million ferry passengers a year, noble Lords will understand the huge potential of street markets as that great city, with a history far greater than many of those in the more prosperous south-west, undergoes a city renaissance—

My Lords, I, too, congratulate my noble friend Lord Harrison on securing this debate, and also on the absolutely spot-on tenor with which he used it. There is no doubt that markets are fun. If you want a proof of that, until last year, I was chairman of Covent Garden Market Authority. New Covent Garden Market is the largest wholesale fruit and vegetable and flower market in the country and is down at Nine Elms. During the period when we were getting our redevelopment proposal together, 10% of the Members of the House of Lords joined us at 7.30 am to go on conducted tours around our market. I see one or two noble Lords around the Chamber this evening who are pointing to themselves saying, “I was there”.

Markets are fun, but they are also important. In declaring that interest, I should say that the discussion so far has, rightly, been about street markets. I should like to talk about wholesale markets. New Covent Garden Market is crucial to London’s economy. I am delighted that the Minister who will answer the debate is a Treasury Minister. With all due respect to the Minister in Defra, which is an important part of this whole field, we need Treasury support for the changes we need initiated to help markets.

New Covent Garden Market supplies 40% of all the fresh food in London that is eaten outside the home. It supplies 20 of the top 20 restaurants in London with their fresh food supplies. It gives a quality and choice that is important within London because it is important for our tourism trade. It is part of the attraction. It is part of what makes London a place to come.

I was delighted to learn that the redevelopment in Battersea, on which I worked with a team to get government permission to proceed, will have a completely new market with the same trading space. It will be an icon for markets in this country, particularly for wholesale markets. There are 26 wholesale markets in the UK, employing about 10,000 people. They turn over something like £4 billion a year. If you link that to the retail markets, you are talking about £8 billion of turnover. In some respects it is not huge; in other respects it is without doubt crucial to our economy. About 2,000 jobs depend upon New Covent Garden Market, and about 200 small businesses. Many of those are third and fourth generation family businesses; that is true in street markets as well.

Although the individual areas are small, the totality is not. It is not just that markets bring trade. They bring fresh goods to a community. They also bring some life and an involvement with the community that brick shops do not. People take their time wandering down a street market. In a supermarket they want to be in and out as quickly as they can. Today, you can associate quality with the food that is sold in street markets. Gone are the days when my mother used to send me to Cross Lane Market and say, “Don’t let him give you the apples from the back, Brenda. You point out the ones that you want”.

Thanks to work done by the trade association for markets, NABMA, we know that the food can be as much as 30% less expensive than in the so-called value-for-money supermarkets. In this age of, for a number of reasons, smaller households, markets will supply small portions. If you want only one apple, you can have one apple; you cannot do that in a supermarket.

Markets are also important for breeding entrepreneurs. Where did Marks & Spencer start? Where did Morrisons start? Dare I say it, where did my noble friend Lord Sugar start? They are good for breeding good business.

My noble friend Lord Harrison’s debate asks the Government how they intend to help. I will give the Minister some help by making one or two suggestions. The DCLG picked up the Portas high street review and supported the “Love Your Local Market” scheme, to which my noble friend referred, with some money. In 2012 something like 2,000 new businesses benefited from a free pitch in a market, and the DCLG helped to fund this. As usual, a government department pinched pennies and gave too little. I ask the Minister to give us some help extending that budget, and not because it is a gamble. This year, 4,700 businesses will be start-ups, and 50% of the businesses in this scheme are still in business three months later. That is a pretty high rate of survival. Five European countries are copying it, and it is spreading. Let us support that “Love Your Local Market” scheme with some more money, help and support.

There has been lots of research but whereas the supermarkets can afford to pay for big research, these businesses cannot, and nor can NABMA. We need decent, in-depth economic research which will demonstrate the value of markets to our community and economy. I gather that the Valuation Office Agency has recently started to assess markets for business rates; if you are a street market you do not pay business rates. Many small markets are saying, “Well, I am a business” and are ending up having to pay business rates they cannot afford. Perhaps that could be looked at. I know that discussions are taking place with NABMA, but it would be good if we could make progress on that.

My final request to the Minister is whether the Government could look favourably at a change in the London Local Authorities Act, to enhance the ability of markets in London to operate more flexibly than they can at the moment.

My Lords, first I pay tribute to the noble Lord, Lord Harrison, for initiating this debate and indeed for initiating the debate a few weeks ago on tourism, in which I also participated. There is of course a relationship between tourism and markets, as has been touched upon. We very much enjoyed the noble Lord’s markets tour of the north-west and Yorkshire, and wish him well with his cheap slippers.

I must declare an interest as the chairman of the Wellington Market Company plc, which is our only quoted markets company. We operate 12 markets nationally, from Hull in the north-east and Morley near Leeds, right the way down to Cornish Market World near St Austell. In London we operate Old Spitalfields market and Shepherd’s Bush market. We received our charter in 1244; I have to say that I have not been chairman for all that time, although there are times when it feels like it.

We all love a successful, vibrant, prosperous market. As was said by the noble Baroness, Lady Dean, markets can be fun, but we have to be careful not to be starry-eyed about them. I can tell your Lordships that operating markets is a very tough business at the present time. There are two principal reasons for that. First, there is the question of competition. In the old days, markets were the ideal source of cheap clothing, and many people went to them for that reason. Of course, there is now a whole range of clothing outlets, such as Primark shops and similar. There are also charity shops, and there is competition from the internet, from supermarkets and also from out-of-town shopping. Competition has increased massively in recent years.

Secondly, there has been a very significant and noticeable decrease in the number of traders who want to operate in markets and operate market stalls. If you look at any of the trade magazines, you will see page after page of local authorities and market operators advertising for a whole range of traders. The shortage is of traders. People do not see it as an attractive career or a particularly profitable one at the present time, and to many the lifestyle does not appeal. At this juncture I pay tribute to the trade bodies, the National Market Traders Federation and the National Association of British Market Authorities, which work enormously hard for the industry, with new ideas and initiatives. In fact, they are closely following today’s debate.

What does a market need to be successful? First of all, investment in the premises is needed, particularly in the market hall. I am sorry to say that for many years many local authorities underinvested in their markets. They were at the bottom of the list of priorities and in many cases they were run by leisure services, with no one taking any real interest, and they withered. I must acknowledge that in recent years there has been very substantial investment in many markets, and I pay tribute to many local authorities—but of course the shortage is of traders, as I said.

Then of course there must be car parking; that is absolutely essential. There also needs to be a partnership in so many ways between the market operator and local authorities. You also need a good manager, and the manager of a market is called a Toby. You need an individual there on site who will banter with the traders, who is available to talk to punters, to talk to customers. The manager must be there on site. To repeat it again, there is no point in trying to run the market from where leisure services are based, four or five miles away. You then need footfall—a market that is well-positioned in this day and age—and a range of regular traders with attractive quality and value stock.

What are the pluses of markets? We have talked about tourism and the way that a successful market can add vibrancy and colour to town centres. As has been referred to, it can also provide an opportunity for young people and ethnic minorities to start businesses. We have seen this through the years. It has also been said that markets provide good value for shoppers—somewhere between 25% and 30% better value in the shopping basket than even some supermarkets.

In many ways, markets can create a bridge between the community and the operator. On Saturday, at our market in Cornwall, Cornish Market World, I opened something we called Creative Cornwall. This touches on what the noble Baroness said earlier. We designated an area of the market to be available to local artists or those who work in local crafts. We had 20 there on Saturday at the opening of Creative Cornwall. This was much welcomed and I hope it prospers and succeeds.

Overall, my message is that competition is increasing even further. An additional worry is that shoppers in our markets are predominantly elderly. Our young people, although there are exceptions, do not go to markets as we would like, so the future will be no easier than it has been so far. I look forward to hearing in the Minister’s wind-up speech how the Government, through a variety of measures, can help this industry, because it is tough at the present time—we should have no illusions about that.

My Lords, it is a joy and a pleasure to take part in this debate. We are all indebted to my noble friend Lord Harrison for his initiative in providing a platform for the various aspects of what one would call the markets industry. Some might say that everything that can be said, has been said, but I say: “Not by everybody”. My twopennyworth goes back many years, and the message is in retailing above all things nothing stands still.

My memory of my home town, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, is that there was fish, greengrocery, flower and meat markets which were all separate entities, managed and understood by people who wanted those goods. They were all connected with what was called the Grainger market, which was where many fine activities went on. Whenever I ring my sister, my only living direct relative, I ask her: “Where have you been?”. When she tells me, I say: “That is next to so and so”, and she says: “Oh, that’s been gone years ago”. Whether we like it or not, we have to recognise that change takes place.

I was interested in the opportunities markets can give people. I pray in aid a marvellous document called Market Times. It is a fund of knowledge about what goes on in the market industry. There is a piece where Alison provides the icing on the cake for “Love your Local Market”. The part I want to quote is this:

“I couldn’t have afforded a shop, but the market business has turned our fortunes around”.

The article continues that she has moved to a larger unit. She got the opportunity through the variety of sizes and the variety of goods. When one reads these articles, from which I shall quote further, one realises that nothing stands still. We must recognise that progress in retailing and shopping has been going on. We have all enjoyed it, because markets are patronised. At the same time, however, one has to look at history.

There is an advert here for Romford market, which gives 10 good reasons why we should support it. It says that it is,

“a vibrant market successfully trading”,

since 1247. That is not 13 minutes to 1 pm; that is 700 years ago. It is has been going on all that time, up and down. I know Romford reasonably well, though I do not know its entire history. I have another quote here about Waltham Cross. The great thing about this magazine, which does so much to tell us what is going on in the world, is that it is not only very readable, but it is very exciting to read these things. The statistics we have had from the noble Lord, Lord Harrison, are absolutely well-founded and well-based. Sometimes, of course, one gets upset. One of the other articles has the headline, “Struggling Crawley market loses lifeline”. I am told sometimes of decisions that have been made by the local authority in order to better plan, as the council sees it, but the council needs to see the impact on the market.

The National Federation of Market Traders is where I made my entry. In 1983 I was a new boy here. The late Lady Phillips—the wife of Morgan Phillips, the great man in Labour history and chairman of the Consumer Council—said to me, “Ted, I’ve been asked to have lunch with people who know a little bit about retailing. Would you come?” I said yes, and the outcome of that is that I became the parliamentary representative for market traders. I have kept in touch with them ever since.

We have got to appreciate that what we are looking for from the Government is for them to understand that if you do not use it, you lose it. It is all very well saying that the big boys are entitled to get bigger, but they only get bigger by pinching from the smaller boys, and we have got to be careful there.

The Minister, Mark Prisk, is not unfamiliar with the market business. An article states:

“He said markets had a unique charm and character. ‘They offer the opportunity to come down to taste the cheese—an experience you cannot replicate online”’.

That is great. It shows where his heart is: he wants to see the industry protected and thriving.

One of the pictures here shows the opportunity given to a Lithuanian man who is a cheesemaker and a cheese-importer. Therefore you have opportunities in the market industry to provide people with an opportunity to do what they want—to work—at a cost that they can afford, which many of them can, and so you have a perpetuation.

I simply want to say to the Committee that nothing stands still, and we are well served. I say to those who are listening to the debate here and elsewhere that voices from a number of places have been aired in this debate. Nobody is an expert with a capital “E”. We all have our own experience, I have mine; and I am grateful to the Committee.

My Lords, I echo the thanks of other noble Lords to my noble friend Lord Harrison, whom I will now think of as a magpie in slippers. This has been a very good debate. I pay special tribute to my noble friend Lord Graham of Edmonton, who has had a lifetime of supporting markets and market traders.

There are many examples across the country of local markets thriving and contributing enormously to communities. Like many noble Lords, I enjoy shopping in local markets, whether in food markets such as Borough Market here in London, covered markets such as the one in Oxford, or farmers’ markets, such as the one in Tavistock in Devon. Some are situated in market towns with a long-standing history of trading, while others are new additions to local communities. However, for the shopper or browsing tourist the experience is always quite unique. The sights, sounds and smells in markets are certainly a treat for all the senses. In Lydney, in the Forest of Dean, we have the Taurus Crafts market, which is a standing market, but every month a food market there sells delicious food and drink from the Forest of Dean, which is a matter for great celebration.

Markets are a testament to the vitality and determination of market traders, who promote local produce, encourage enterprise and support the local economy. However, the nationwide picture tells a rather different story. Markets up and down the country are struggling, which means that the impact that this industry has on the nation’s economy is much smaller than it could be. Hundreds of markets are just waiting for support and investment opportunities which, if provided, could transform not just the lives of market traders themselves but the communities in which their businesses trade.

The National Market Traders Federation—NMTF—is a terrific organisation that was established over a century ago to champion the case for markets. It reported recently that its membership had fallen from 34,537 to 25,576 in the last five years. That means that the industry has shrunk by a quite dramatic 25%. In the last 18 months alone, membership of the NMTF has fallen by 3,500 members, which suggests that over 5,000 market traders have stopped trading since December 2012.

The noble Lord, Lord Lee of Trafford, said that most market shoppers are older; clearly we have to encourage younger people to go to markets. However, I must say that my own children are very frequent shoppers at markets. Market traders, like thousands in the retail industry, are struggling with the pressures of the growth of online shopping and the expansion of large supermarkets. They are also feeling the strain because of the decline in the number of shoppers, and because the costs of running a business—affected by gas and electricity hikes—affect market traders as well as people who have shops. As the National Association of British Market Authorities has reported, public sector cuts have also contributed significantly to the underperformance of market service in the last few years.

Many noble Lords mentioned Mary Portas, who talks of markets as an untapped resource. It is increasingly clear that we have to view successful markets not merely as an end in themselves but as part of a vibrant local economy—an important part of the jigsaw of a local community. Does the Minister agree that we need to wake up to the real potential of local markets and start to view them as part of a vital component of the local economy? Their contribution, if truly unlocked, could help in numerous ways.

As food prices rise, and real wages fall, finding good deals on fresh produce is important. Farmers’ markets come into their own here, because they not only supply brilliant local produce but sell it at a cheaper rate than many local supermarkets, as my noble friend Lady Dean said. We also know that price is an extremely important factor in people’s decision to eat in a healthier way, so it is a win-win situation. Beyond promoting healthier diets, the Joseph Rowntree Foundation found that local markets are also an important site of social interaction for local communities, as has been said.

As well as the social and health benefits, the economic impact of local markets is potentially huge. This year, the Federation of Small Businesses reported that for every £1 spent locally, around 50p to 70p recirculates into the economy. If the same £1 is spent out of town or online, only 5p trickles back to the local economy. Chesterfield is a fine example of success. The market hall has almost full occupancy and is helping the town to buck the trend and drive trade back into its centre. Chesterfield has one of the highest levels of shop occupancy of any town in the east Midlands, and tourist numbers are up year on year, thanks to the thriving atmosphere in the town centre, which is in part due to the thriving local market.

As the NMTF says, as a tool for increasing footfall, stimulating consumption and adding vibrancy and diversity to a street or square, nothing beats a buzzing market. Does the Minister agree that with low costs and a direct relationship with customers, market trading is one of the best entry points to the world of business? As noble Lords have said, it is a great place to start trading.

There are clear economic, social and health benefits to establishing successful markets, but we need to promote their development and persuade local people of their benefits. Many noble Lords have mentioned the “Love Your Local Market” campaign, which is good and welcome, but is too small and does not have enough money. We know that some actions taken by local councils can encourage the development of markets, as noble Lords have said: free parking, wi-fi access and regular cleaning and maintenance. However, while retail spaces are able to offer these services with relative ease, market traders and producers find it more difficult.

Local authorities consistently report that they have little capacity for the strategic development of markets. However, one way of promoting greater autonomy in local areas is to ensure that local people with local knowledge and local investments have the power they need to bring about change. It is crucial that we give local councils the freedom and power to control the decisions which will enable investment in local projects. Developing a network of regional banks and working with business improvement districts would do just that.

Last weekend my right honourable friend Ed Miliband reaffirmed my party’s commitment to devolving power to local communities. That would help local economies and ensure that they serve the needs of the whole of society by creating an economy where power is taken away from Whitehall and Westminster and given to people in the communities in which they live. We want to equip councils with the power that they need. As noble Lords have said, the number one concern for many traders and businesses are small business rates—which, like food, gas and electricity prices, have risen under this Government. Labour will cut them and freeze rates for small businesses to help traders—the lifeblood of communities—achieve their ambitions.

Gwen Sangster, the operations manager of Darwen market, which has 130 stalls and is a crucial part of the area’s small business offer, believes that this policy could be the difference between survival and closure for businesses. For those doing well, it could persuade them to take the plunge to expand and create one or two jobs. If replicated throughout the country, this could make a big difference to the economy.

As our European partners recognise, to invest in a market is to invest in a community. It is to invest in the talents of local entrepreneurs and in the long histories and traditions of towns and villages, for the benefit not just of the market traders and communities but of the national economy.

My Lords, I will immediately start with a brief apology. Today’s response will be truncated in view of our being limited by time. I assure noble Lords that I have made detailed notes on all their questions and I will write to them on those I do not cover. I thank all noble Lords for their contributions, particularly the noble Lord, Lord Harrison, for initiating this debate and for his informed, impassioned and highly entertaining introductory speech.

Almost all our towns and cities owe their very existence to markets. Those markets grew up—as I did—where people came together to trade. I remember being sent out by my mother to the market stall for some groceries. Being bilingual, I knew the Urdu word for aubergine, but not what it was in English. So I persisted in asking for a range of vegetables, then said: “May I also have some bengans?”. The expression on the face of the trader was something you can all imagine.

My noble friend Lady Bottomley will be pleased to learn that, since her time as a local government Minister, we now have a dedicated retail markets Minister who also looks after town centres and high streets. Indeed, I met the recently appointed Minister, Penny Mordaunt, this morning in light of this debate and I can assure noble Lords that she is all guns blazing in ensuring that we protect this central part of our economy.

I was pleased to hear, during the debate, the great enthusiasm for markets from all noble Lords here today. People feel deeply, as they should, that these markets ought to remain and, indeed, thrive. The noble Lord, Lord Harrison, spoke eloquently about his local markets in Chester; people need to support such markets if they are to survive. I have great affection for my local markets. In Wimbledon we have a number of diverse and interesting markets, including farmers’ markets, and in Cobham a farmers’ market meets every fourth Saturday. However, markets, as they have always done, need to evolve to the changing high streets of today—as was said by several noble Lords. My department, DCLG, is working with the market industry to help traders adapt to the current retail environment.

Turning to specific questions, the noble Lord, Lord Harrison, asked about the “How Bizaar” programme in Leeds. That programme was funded: I believe its new quarter was funded in October 2010 as part of that but that the specific funding stream has now ceased. If there is any further detail on that, I will write to him. The noble Baroness, Lady Royall, talked about the onset of online trading. I totally share her sentiments on that but many market traders have an online presence as well as being behind a stall: forward-thinking is required for market operators in the public and private sectors. Indeed, the rollout of wi-fi across places such as Bolton has already had an impact.

Many noble Lords referred to the “Love Your Local Market” campaign and introducing new entrepreneurs. We have worked closely with, and funded, the National Association of British Market Authorities to set up and run the “Love Your Local Market” campaign. Since the initiative was launched in 2012 it has proven a tremendous success, with 920 towns delivering 7,000 markets in this year’s “Love Your Local Market” fortnight alone. This has not gone unnoticed and the brand has now been adopted in Barcelona and Venice, and interest has also been shown as far afield as the United States and Australia.

The noble Lord, Lord Graham, and the noble Baroness, Lady Dean, talked about the importance of entrepreneurs. I pay tribute to the noble Lord, Lord Graham, for his work in the market trading area. As the noble Baroness said, many names we know started life on market stalls. The noble Lord, Lord Sugar, and Richard Branson are among the names we could mention. The “Love Your Local Market” campaign is fundamental to encouraging the next generation of businessmen and women to contribute to the nation’s prosperity. I join my noble friend, Lord Lee, and others who talked about diversity in not just what is offered but also the people involved in markets up and down the country. The noble Lord, Lord Graham, also talked about encouraging people to use markets more. I agree with this very important sentiment and that is why the Government continue to back the “Love Your Local Market” campaign. The noble Baroness, Lady Dean, talked about the importance of wholesale markets. Her Majesty’s Government, through my colleagues at Defra, take the lead for wholesale markets. However, we recognise the close links between the retail and wholesale markets and I am pleased to say that Covent Garden Market Authority has a seat on the DCLG retail markets forum.

Several questions were asked about training. I have some substantive government responses but, bearing in mind the most detailed, eloquent and sometimes lengthy contributions we have had in today’s debate, and if noble Lords agree, I shall write to them on this important issue because it warrants the detailed response necessary.

Again, I thank all noble Lords who participated in this debate. It is important that it is recognised that markets are the heartbeat of what represents Britain today. They are a key part of the retail offering of Britain and the Government are alive to this. I thank all noble Lords, not only for their contributions but, as with the noble Baroness, Lady Dean, for their suggestions, which I shall consider most carefully. I end with a simple message and a simple request. We are all keen supporters of our local markets in towns up and down the country and it is incumbent on us all to ensure that this important part of British life is sustained not just for today but for generations to come.