It is an easy drive to Tesco, Asda, Sainsbury or Waitrose from my home. None of them are easy to reach by train or bus. I think we are well served by our competitive supermarkets â€“ but not by our monopoly public transport.
It was typical of the OFT and the Competition Commission to pick on successful UK businesses for their latest set of press releases, and amusing to see a Judge stand up to the OFT and criticise it for its very New Labour failing of chasing headlines, without proper concern for due process and the impact of its populist remarks.
The Supermarkets stand accused of responding to the government and popular pressure to pay farmers more for the milk they supply. The Competition Commission apparently thinks we are short of quangos in this country, and wants the public to fork out for another one, this time to act as an overseer of all the supplier contracts supermarkets enter into. When will these people learn that we are not short of regulators, and that there is a price to pay for endless layers of supervision?
If the guardians of competition want to do something useful they should look at the exploitation of monopoly, with high costs and high prices, in some of our important services. Why donâ€™t they investigate:
1. The surge in costs at Network Rail after nationalisation, and the high access charges to track
2. The high and rising costs of the postal service
3. The absence of cost effective and reliable train services in many places
4. The poor performance of many rubbish collection services allied to high Council taxes
5. The rising costs and poor performance of some water monopolists over flood control, with rationing when itâ€™s dry weather for a bit.
6. The high charge for a BBC licence allied to its persistent pro bigger government and pro EU bias
If I donâ€™t like one of the local supermarkets I can go to another or to the corner shop. I think they all do a fantastic job with sensible prices, They offer high quality, great choice, flexible hours. Tesco is the market leader currently,because more people choose to shop there than elsewhere. If Tesco ever lost its understanding of what we, the customers want, if it became too expensive or stocked the wrong things, it would lose its position. There is plenty of aggressive competition from others trying to take the first place away from the leader. Tesco’s record at running a profitable, socially accoutnable business is excellent. Its stores participate in their local communities,and the buyers flex the product range as they see customer tastes altering.
If I donâ€™t like my rubbish service I still have to use it, and have to pay the bill under threat of prison if I withheld money for poor performance. If I donâ€™t like the local train service, or find it is not convenient, I have to lump it. If I want a different water service I am out of luck. If I donâ€™t want the additives in the water which are standard supply I have to put up with them.
Itâ€™s high time the government, the Competition authorities and the regulators got stuck into these real examples of poor service and high price. Meanwhile, the fact that so many of my constituents choose to go to Tesco shows they must be doing something right.