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New Powers for Groceries Adjudicator

by 5m Editor
27 June 2011, at 7:28am

UK - The Environment, Food and Rural Affairs select committee has moved to give the groceries code adjudicator new powers to combat the ‘climate of fear’ that exists in the groceries supply chain.

Having taken evidence from farmers and food producers on the draft Groceries Code Adjudicator Bill, MPs on the Efra committee have written to colleagues completing pre-legislative scrutiny calling for the addition of two further powers for the proposed Adjudicator.

The powers they have recommended would allow trade organisations to make complaints on behalf of farmers and growers, while also giving the adjudicator a mandate to undertake pro-active investigations with the power to impose financial penalties as soon as it is established.

Publishing the letter, Anne McIntosh, Chair of the Committee, said: “EFRA Committee is keen to ensure the new Adjudicator will adequately protect farmers and food producers from large retailers. We have written to our colleagues on the Business, Innovation and Skills Select Committee about the evidence we have received.

“For many years there has been a ‘climate of fear’ in the groceries supply chain. We therefore endorse the provision in the draft Bill that will allow the Adjudicator to receive anonymous complaints from direct or indirect suppliers about retailers breaking the Groceries supply Code.

“However, we also believe the Government should amend the legislation to allow trade organisations to make complaints on behalf of farmers and food producers reluctant to jeopardise their commercial relationships.

“We also recommend that the Adjudicator should be able to undertake pro-active investigations and that the Adjudicator should have the power to impose financial penalties as soon as it is established.

"Having set out our views on the Government’s proposals we hope the BIS Committee will reflect our conclusions in its report to the House.

The announcement comes a week after National Farmers' Union (NFU) President, Peter Kendall, gave evidence to the committee and recommended amendments to make the draft bill stronger and the adjudicator more proactive.

NFU director of policy, Martin Haworth, said: “This is a real victory for farmers and growers. We are pleased that the Efra committee has listened to our concerns and acted on them. Giving the adjudicator the power to launch investigations on the basis of credible evidence, and allowing organisations such as the NFU to make complaints on behalf of our members, would send a strong message to retailers that unethical business practices will not be tolerated. We are pleased to have played a leading role in influencing this recommendation.”