Ceisteanna—Questions Oral Answers - Grocery Trade Consumer Interests.

10.

asked the Minister for Industry, Trade, Commerce and Tourism if he is satisfied that consumer interests are being best protected by the way in which the grocery trade is being conducted in the country at present.

I am satisfied that the highly competitive situation which exists at present in the retail grocery trade in Ireland is to the benefit of consumers and that further legislative intervention in this area is not warranted. However, the existing legislation, for example in respect of the advertising of below cost selling, is being vigorously enforced.

Would the Minister accept that the four major multinationals in the grocery trade have in excess of 84 per cent of the trade in the Dublin area and in excess of 50 per cent nationally? Would he not agree that that percentage gives the multinationals an unfair advantage over the 7,000 independent grocers throughout the country?

Obviously economies of scale give advantages to people, whether they be multinationals or uninationals. The position is that there is very active competition between all the supermarkets and the independent groups and I believe active competition is in the best interests of the shopper because it enables him or her to get the best value for money.

Would the Minister give an undertaking that he will make time available for an early discussion on the Joint Committee on Small Businesses' report on retail distribution which drew attention to these matters, and particularly to the question of power-buying by the multinationals, which can have a detrimental effect on other interests and in the final analysis, can affect the consumer?

A request for Government time to debate a report would be best communicated through the Fianna Fáil Whip to the Government Whip. Personally, I would be happy to participate in such a debate if it is arranged.

Would the Minister agree that there has been an about-turn in Government policy in this matter since their Private Members' Bill of 1981?

That does not arise.