Brown pledges support for ailing rural stores Exclusive Clive Beddall and Belinda Gannaway report on the key trade issues thrown up in Brighton Much needed help for struggling independents in country communities and market towns is set to be included in the government's Rural White Paper this autumn. Agriculture minister Nick Brown, interviewed exclusively on GrocerTV during the Labour Party conference, praised the role of rural stores as "essential service providers" in country areas and said that several initiatives to help their survival were being considered by the government. The minister also hit back at criticism that, in his work to unite the food chain, independents were being neglected in favour of the multiples. "I am very keen to draw the food chain closer together. It is impossible to ignore the power of the big multiples in that chain but that doesn't mean there isn't an important role for independents, particularly in rural areas and parrticularly in market towns." The minister, who acknowledged that many retailers faced mounting problems with red tape, revealed he was working closely with Lord Chris Haskins, chair of the prime minister's Better Regulation Task Force. "The Haskins review is going to be an important ally in this issue." The minister praised major retailers for drawing up a proposed code of trading practice, but added that he was committed to the scheme being extended across the whole of the food and drink supply chain. "I realise it s not an easy thing for the retailers to do, both to state principles and then to say how they will be carried out. "But it's important to have the code when there are fears that power is disproportionately distributed throughout the chain." {{NEWS }}