Sainsbury’s has confirmed that there are no planned store closures as a result of the merger. The independent Competition and Markets Authority is investigating the effects on competition and has until 5 March 2019 to report. The CMA’s investigation is independent of Government and we must not pre-judge the inquiry. The Secretary of State wrote to the CMA in May on this issue and I met with the CEO of Sainsbury’s last month.
Sainsbury’s has indicated that it will look at price cuts of 10% under a merger with Asda, but it has also indicated that it would make efficiency savings of around £500 million. I know from this Government’s record that efficiency savings often mean cuts somewhere down the line, so what discussions has the Minister or the Department had with trade unions to ensure that all jobs—not just in store, but in distribution and warehousing—are safeguarded?
The hon. Gentleman is right to raise concerns, because any merger and change will of course concern the workers in the organisations, but I have spoken with Sainsbury’s and it has been clear that the pay and reward structure that is already in place is not affected as part of the merger. We will continue our communications with the stores. As he will know, the CMA is currently looking at the merger and is due to report. We will be monitoring this, as we would in any such circumstances.
The National Farmers Union has expressed disquiet at this proposed merger. Will my hon. Friend give an assurance to me and to the House more generally that the Government will always promote competition both to improve choice for the consumer and to improve options for people in the supply chain, particularly in farming?
I thank my hon. Friend for his question. He is absolutely right: one of the things that we are committed to is making sure that we continue with our world-renowned competition regime. It is right that, even at a ministerial level, we are independent of the CMA, but we work very closely with the CMA on priorities, and looking at supply chains is a key area for all mergers, as is how we protect consumers and markets in future.