Tories say supermarkets should be forced to charge for parking

Supermarkets should be banned from offering customers free parking and goods sold below cost price, a Conservative policy group is to suggest.

Smaller shops should be protected by imposing size limits on larger stores, the Tories’ quality of life group will report on Thursday. It also recommends that supermarkets should be forced to abide by legally binding codes of conduct to help to ensure a diversity of food suppliers and retailers.

The recommendations emerged as David Cameron attempted to reassure voters that Tory plans to raise green taxes would not leave ordinary families worse off. Firmly committing the Conservatives to raising taxes on activities such as air travel and motoring, he insisted that the increases would be balanced by cuts elsewhere.

In a speech to the London School of Economics, Mr Cameron said that environmental levies offered a “double dividend” of reducing pollution while offering scope to cut taxes on jobs and investment.

The challenges of globalisation and climate change were bringing to a close the period of economic consensus that began when new Labour embraced free markets, he said. Mr Cameron cast doubt on the effectiveness of carbon trading and said that too few Britons were benefiting from the liberalisation of world trade.

Attacking Labour’s record, he said: “By using green taxes as extra stealth taxes, Gordon Brown has given them a bad name.” By contrast a Conservative government would use the proceeds of green taxes to promote social mobility through jobs and investment.

Aides said that the Tory leader was preparing the ground in advance of the 800-page report from the quality of life group, which is chaired by John Gummer, the former Enviromment Secretary, and Zac Goldsmith, the wealthy green campaigner.

The last and most controversial of Mr Cameron’s six policy groups is expected to recommend a series of measures to change Britons’ lifestyles.

A section on food and farming proposes that local authorities should be given powers to block or impose conditions on planning applications by out-of-town supermarkets. “Local authorities should be given the power to insist that out-of-town supermarkets levy a car-parking charge,” the report proposes, adding that the proceeds could help to subsidise local transport links or recycling facilities.

Other proposals include doing more to encourage children to cook and the establishment of a public diet institute to tackle the obesity problem.

Labour claimed that the proposals would erode business confidence in the Conservatives. Andy Burnham, Chief Secretary to the Treasury, said: “The Tories are at sixes and sevens on tax. There is a huge difference between using incentives to help people make greener choices, and what the Tories are having to do by using swingeing green tax rises to try to plug a black hole in their budget.”

(Published by Times Online, September 11, 2007)


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