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Supermarket watchdog with teeth looks more likely

By Mike Stones , 20-Nov-2012
Last updated the 21-Nov-2012 at 12:06 GMT

Support for a groceries code adjudicator with the power to impose fines seems to be gaining ground in Parliament, according to the National Farmers Union (NFU).

Speaking after the Groceries Code Adjudicator Bill had its second reading in the House of Commons on Monday (November 19), NFU head of government affairs Nick von Westenholz said that the debate revealed the depth of support for an effective adjudicator.

“We were particularly encouraged to hear the [Department for Food, Environment and Rural Affairs] minister, David Heath, recognise that MPs had overwhelmingly spoken in favour of fining powers to be made available to the adjudicator from the outset,” said Westenholz.

“We look forward to further discussions with ministers about amending the bill to include this important provision.”

Serious breach

NFU president Peter Kendall said: “While the current bill is in many ways a strong and workable piece of legislation, there are still improvements that need making. Most important, MPs must amend the Bill to ensure the adjudicator will, from day one, be able to fine retailers who are found to be in serious breach of the groceries code.

“Producers and suppliers have for too long been subject to unfair treatment by large retailers. Despite some positive work in recent years, abuse still happens. It is vital that Parliament ensures the adjudicator is equipped with the full range of powers to do his or her job effectively.”

Meanwhile, earlier this week, anti-poverty agency ActionAid also urged the government to give the supermarket watchdog the power to impose fines.

Melanie Ward, the agency’s head of advocacy, said: “Only with the ability to hit big supermarkets where it hurts – their profit margins – will the watchdog be able to protect vulnerable farmers and producers around the world from being treated unfairly.”

The bill is expected to complete its passage through Parliament in early 2013.