A group of Conservative MPs is to be the latest body to formally consider the future of the UK's small stores with the launch of a special investigatory commission.

Chaired by Brian Binley, MP for Northampton South, the commission will consider the threats and opportunities facing independents to see if any lessons can be learnt from thriving town centres to encourage greater diversity and the recruitment of independent retailers into high street locations.
The commission is already collecting submissions and will be officially launched next month, after which it will be seeking interviews with selected parties prior to publishing a report in March 2008.
Of particular interest to the commission will be planning, retail competition, business crime, parking and business costs. Although not linked with the Competition Commission (CC) investigation, it is another sign that many in Westminster feel that the CC inquiry is not likely to provide a complete answer to the issues faced by small stores.
Alongside Binley will be MPs Nadine Dorries, Philip Dunne and John Redwood, plus Nigel Evans, whose family runs a c-store in South Wales. The MPs will be joined by James Lowman of the Association of Convenience Stores, architect Paul Hobden and representatives from the Federation of Small Businesses, the Royal Town Planning Institute, the Association of Multiple Licensed Retailers and the Association of Chief Police Officers. The group will reviewing written submissions and conduct face-to-face interviews.
Binley said: "Many of Britain's town centres are in decline with the number of shoppers decreasing, put off by a combination of crime and poor planning policies, and these trends have particularly forced out small businesses.
"We need to consider government's proper role and look at how we can ensure small businesses are able to compete fairly. We also need to look at ways of encouraging innovation so that we retain the diversity of our high streets."
ACS chief executive James Lowman welcomed the opportunity to take part. He said: "This is a timely examination of issues affecting small stores."