Call for Progress on Groceries Code Adjudicator

UK - The National Farmers' Union has hit out at the UK government's response to parliamentary recommendations on Groceries Code Adjudicator.
calendar icon 18 October 2011
clock icon 4 minute read

The NFU says the government’s response to the Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) Select Committee report on the Draft Groceries Code Adjudicator Bill, published in May, is inexplicable.

The union believes the government action will hamper the adjudicator in ensuring fair play for producers and processors in trade with retailers.

Despite committing its draft Bill for scrutiny by MPs, the government has chosen to ignore the key recommendations which two committees of MPs, as well as the NFU and many other organisations, have said are necessary to ensure the Adjudicator is fit for purpose when eventually established.

The Committee published its findings in July, following an inquiry into the draft Bill, which included evidence provided by the Efra Committee following its own separate inquiry.

The NFU welcomed the work carried out by both committees, which acknowledged the need for an Adjudicator to police the Groceries Supply Code of Practice (GSCOP), and made a number of recommendations for the Bill to be improved.

NFU President Peter Kendall said: “The government chose to publish a draft Bill for pre-legislative scrutiny, so that MPs would be able to give their considered judgement on what form the final Bill should take. Having done so, it has now chosen to ignore the most significant recommendations of those MPs, rendering the pre-legislative process an irrelevant diversion.

“In particular, the Select Committees endorsed the need for the GCA to be given the power to take credible evidence from a wider range of sources, including representative bodies like the NFU, when deciding to launch an investigation into supermarket practices.

"This is essential to ensure that the Code can be made to work effectively. The role whistle-blowers within retailers can play in supplying evidence of breaches and giving the Adjudicator the ability to fine retailers where it identifies breaches of the code are vital to ensuring the Code has real teeth. These recommendations have not been accepted by BIS which is a real kick in the teeth.

“Frankly, at a time when retailers are engaging in another round of aggressive price cutting, it is more important than ever that we ensure they play fair with their suppliers, so that they can continue to invest and innovate for the benefit of both consumers and food producers. Sadly, as things stand the Adjudicator will be badly hampered in its ability to do so, making it unfit for purpose. It is hard not to detect the dead hand of the retailers at play behind the government’s reticence to establish an effective regime to police the groceries code.

“If the government intends to persevere with their plans, they should at least bring forward the formal Bill during the current Parliamentary session, where we can have proper debate among all MPs to ensure the legislation is amended appropriately.”

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