Smaller retailers are now virtually barred from entering the grocery market, according to participants at a recent House of Commons meeting held to monitor the Competition Commission's inquiry into the sector.

The group was composed mainly of activists and lobbyists supporting the independent sector, some of whom had met the Commission already to present their views. The meeting was hosted by an MP.

"One worry voiced was that there were now barriers to entry, so that someone starting up cannot go head-to-head with the supermarkets," said a source from within the group. "Only the big companies can play."