Labour has urged the government to stand up to Tesco in a scathing attack on the “almighty conglomerate”.

Shadow local government minister Jack Dromey MP criticised Tesco for pursuing its retail ambitions at the expense of high streets and small shops. “Tesco wants to rule retail, in particular the southern swathe of England,” he told The Guardian newspaper. 

“It is simply not right that you can have one almighty conglomerate using its market power at the expense of the high street and other retailers, particularly small, struggling retailers. High streets have become like ghost towns with local retailers going out of business with dire consequences for communities, the poor, the elderly and those without access to cars. This is a deeply felt issue all over Britain.”

He urged Mary Portas to recommend a ‘competition test’ in her review of high streets, in order to ensure a level playing field and prevent grocery retailers gaining a dominant position in a locality. Other multiples would support such a measure to prevent further dominance by Tesco, he added. “I think Tesco may find itself in a minority of one trying to object to that, and the government has got to have the courage of their convictions to face Tesco down,” he said.

“If you want a healthy, diverse high street then you cannot have a dominant retailer acting in its own interests, and not the interests of the high street.”

Dromey also challenged Tesco’s claim to be a major creator of jobs, arguing that its expansion may have resulted in a reduction of total jobs in the retail sector.

He recently tabled a motion in Parliament to insert a clause in the Localism Bill for a retail diversity scheme, which the government rejected.