A Sustainable Communities Bill, which sets out to protect high street retailers, was backed by 175 votes to 17 at its second reading at the House of Commons last week.

The Bill, sponsored by Conservative MP Nick Hurd, aims to give local communities powers to tackle social, economic and environmental decline. Among the measures it is promoting are availability of local shops and access for communities to food adequate in quality and nutritional value.

The Bill now goes to the Com-mittee Stage in March, and is scheduled to have its third reading around April. It is currently supported by 80 national organisations, 300 local organisations and over 1,000 parish and town councils.

Meanwhile, The Competition Commission (CC) said that, so far, it has found "food and drink manufacturers and processors, as well as wholesalers to be in reasonable shape", in an update on its review of the UK grocery market this week.

In its Emerging Thinking document, it summarises evidence gathered on areas such as the supply chain, planning and land banks (undeveloped land). Related issues brought to the CC’s attention have included the character of town centres and the ’high street’ and the need for thriving rural and urban communities.

It comments that there is no clear evidence that supermarket buying power is reducing supplier innovation and is still examining the ’waterbed effect’ - whether smaller retailers are paying higher prices to suppliers than larger retailers. Its investigation shows that Tesco holds most undeveloped land, but that other retailers are actively increasing their holdings.

The CC, which started its inquiry in May 2006, will concentrate on retailer competition over the next few months, looking for evidence of below-cost selling and price flexing. It is required to publish its final report by 8 May 2008, but is aiming to do so ahead of schedule in November 2007.