A victory for the City?

30 June, 2006

A move to allow face-to-face trading of meat products at New Covent Garden Market (NCGM) has been called an "important breakthrough" for London's food industry by market bosses.

A ruling by the House of Commons has overturned a decision by the Court of Appeal to ban meat and fish traders at NCGM selling over-the-counter produce.

Baroness Dean, chairman of the Covent Garden Market Authority, welcomed the news, adding that until now London's restaurants, caterers and food retailers had been prevented from directly choosing all their own purchases. She said: "This decision by the highest court in the land will greatly assist in enhancing London's reputation for first class, high quality cuisine and catering. With the Olympics in London this will become even more important."

A spokesman for The City of London Corporation said it viewed the judgment of the Law Lords on the judicial review of New Covent Garden Market as a narrow victory for the Covent Garden Market Authority. This was because the decision allowed NCGM restricted freedom only, with regards to what it could do with land surplus to its requirements for running a horticultural market. However, the spokesman said the City welcomed the news that the Covent Garden Market Association could not hold a market in meat and fish which interfered with the City's markets at Smithfield and Billingsgate.

Stanley Ginsburg, chairman of the markets committee at the City of London, said: "We are disappointed with the result, but their Lordships stressed that this judgment gave only limited rights to the sale of meat and fish at New Covent Garden. The City of London took this case to support our market tenants and their workforces at all three markets, but especially Billingsgate and Smithfield. As such, we see the judgment as an endorsement of the rights of Billingsgate and Smithfield traders.

"Billingsgate and Smithfield are internationally renowned as the key markets for fish and meat respectively and we are confident that these reputations will be safeguarded long into the future."

New Covent Garden Market is a leading wholesale market for fresh produce and flowers and there are approximately 250 companies at the site employing over 2,500 people. Its annual turnover is in excess of £500m.

Baroness Dean said: "The authority always believed that the government's original decision to allow face-to-face trading of meat and fish at New Covent Garden Market was correct. This decision had been challenged and it is a relief to be able to put the distractions - and costly delay - of this case behind us."





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