Legislation will kill retailers, MPs told

MPs have been warned that plans to deregulate newstrade distribution could lead to a drastic reduction in the number of outlets selling magazines and newspapers.

They were told, at a meeting held at the House of Commons, that plans next year to scrap the Vertical Agreement Exclusion Order – which allows publishers to award contracts on a regional basis – could put up to 20,000 small retailers, especially in rural areas, at risk.

MPs were told 80 per cent of the news retailers in Chancellor Gordon Brown’s constituency, Dunfermline East, would be at risk.

Red Pepper is one of 1,000 magazines that the Periodical Publishers Association believes could close through reduced access to market.

Red Pepper editor Hilary Wainwright told the meeting: “This is being done in the name of the free market, but this isn’t unleashing some free spirit, but in fact consolidating further power with the supermarkets. Our cultural freedoms are under threat.”

The PPA, which represents the magazine sector, is trying to get a block exemption for both newspapers and magazines in the UK from the new legislation deregulating distribution.

Austin Mitchell MP said he would send letters to Trade and Industry Secretary Patricia Hewitt MP and chairman of the Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee Gerald Kaufman MP, warning them of the dangers of changing the distribution system.

? Secretary to the Alliance of Independent Retailers Len Griffin has warned: “Given the purchasing power of the chains, it’s obvious the giant retailers are going to negotiate better prices and terms than Mr Patel’s news agency or Mrs Jones’s kiosk”

By Sarah Lagan

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