Clive Beddall, Belinda Gannaway Hopes that Trade and Industry Secretary Stephen Byers will not deliver a damning verdict on the multiples after the Competition Commission's profitability probe have soared after one of his ministerial team said there was "already healthy competition in the sector" and more regulation might not be advisable. The comments came during a BRC fringe meeting at New Labour's Brighton conference when DTI minister Kim Howells told delegates that over regulation was "the kiss of death" and there was already enough of it in a huge part of retailing. Asked specifically about the 16 months CC inquiry, he said that, from his perception, there was healthy competition in the retail sector, adding: "We have to be careful not to throw the baby out with the bath water with more regulation." Multiple lobbyists saw this as a positive sign and there was speculation that Byers, when he eventually reacts to the CC probe, will "not give too damning a verdict." Despite widespread speculation that he would use the conference to deliver his verdict on multiple profitability, the minister did not mention the inquiry in his address to conference on the final day. However, as delegates left Brighton there was widespread speculation that the DTI announcement was "only a matter of days away." One senior industry executive said on Thursday: "It's the Tories' conference next week ­ I wouldn't put it past the government to make the announcement then, to draw the attention away from William Hague in Bournemouth." Meanwhile, agriculture minister Nick Brown, who recently passed the multiples' new code of trading practice to Stephen Byers, has called for a meeting of all heads of the food chain early in November. And the DTI findings are likely to dominate the agenda. He told an NFU fringe meeting that he would be talking to Byers about ways of "creating a level playing field" in the food chain marked by more transparency and even handedness. He added:"This is one industry and we all have a vested interest in each other's wellbeing and each other's success." See Opinion, page 16. {{NEWS }}