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Dáil Éireann debate -
Thursday, 24 Apr 1969

Vol. 239 No. 14

Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Protection of Small Retailers.


asked the Minister for Industry and Commerce if he will state with reference to his recent statement what action he proposes to take to protect the interests of small retail traders against supermarket monopolies which are often sponsored from overseas.

I have made it clear on more than one occasion that, in my view, there is room for a wide range of size of enterprise and type of activity in the distributive trades, but that what we must be concerned about is misuse of the economic power of dominant enterprises with large financial resources leading to unfair trading practices. I have been watching, and am continuing to watch, developments closely so that I may be ready to take prompt action at any time this is called for, but clearly it would not be possible at this stage to say just what measures future developments may call for.

Would the Minister agree that his recent speech to the retail groups of the Grocers' Association in which he warned of the possibility of supermarkets further increasing their grip represents by the Minister another one of his gimmick speeches? He has repeatedly in this House when asked to take action against the undoubted spread of supermarkets refused to take action as he does now in answer to this question. Yet outside, in the country, the Minister, Mr. Colley, likes to present himself as the small trader's, the small man's defender. Now when he is asked to do something he will do nothing about what is an undoubted threat to the many small traders throughout the country, the monopolistic competition represented by many foreign supermarkets at the present time which is taking a complete stranglehold of the retail trade in this country.

It is easy to make that kind of assertion but when one is trying to deal with a situation in the position of Minister for Industry and Commerce who has to be concerned with actual facts it is a different matter. There are a number of misstatements of fact and there are assertions just made by Deputy O'Leary. I have discussed this matter in considerable detail with RGDATA. I have established a section of my Department which will gather a great deal of information about the actual extent of the penetration into the retail trade, particularly the grocery and allied trade, by supermarkets and by foreign controlled supermarkets. The facts of the matter are one thing but the assertions people make about them are another. Furthermore, I have put certain proposals to RGDATA to assist in combating those unfair trade practices. I am getting their co-operation but I think those people who are living with this problem are well aware of the fact that as far as I am concerned I am willing to help them, that I have been trying to help them and that their co-operation is necessary. Deputy O'Leary may make the kind of assertions he has made but they do not solve or help to solve the problem at all. I have also indicated in reply to this question, and previously, when it is clear action has to be taken it will be taken but it has got to be taken on the basis of facts and not on the basis of assertions.

Does the Minister agree that the NIEC are scarcely given to fanciful assertions and they have called attention to the growing threat in the retail trade of foreign supermarkets? They have referred to this threat and this danger so the threat and danger undoubtedly exist. All we are waiting for is for the Minister to take action.

This, of course, is not correct. If the Deputy would read the NIEC Reports he would see they have drawn attention to the possibility of this danger here. They have not been in a position to assess the extent of it and they have ended up by recommending that no action be taken at the moment, a recommendation on which I am not acting.

The problem undoubtedly exists.

The Deputy cannot monopolise Question Time.

The problem exists but no action is being taken by the Minister.