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Pressure mounts for supermarket watchdog with “real teeth”


Andrew George MP

Essential protection for farmers and other suppliers from the bully boy tactics of supermarkets took an important step forward in Parliament today after the West Cornwall and Isles of Scilly Constituency of St Ives MP Andrew George pressed DEFRA Ministers in the Commons to support swift action to create an Adjudicator.

Mr George, who chairs GMAG (Grocery Market Action Group), revealed that the Government intends to publish the draft Grocery Adjudicator Bill in May. GMAG, which includes in its membership the National Farmers Union, the National Farmers Union of Scotland, the British Independent Fruit Growers Association, Friends of the Earth, ActionAid, Traidcraft and other bodies, has been fighting for five years to successfully secure crossbench support for the creation of a new watchdog to ensure there is fair dealing in the grocery supply chain.

Mr George also told the House that to make sure that the Adjudicator was in place as soon as possible would need support from DEFRA Ministers, and Parliament business managers. Caroline Spelman, Secretary of State, agreed.

As long ago as April 2008 the  Competition Commission warned that the transfer of excessive risk and unexpected costs by grocery retailers to their suppliers…if unchecked will have an adverse effect on investment and innovation in the supply chain, and ultimately on consumers. New rules to enforce fair dealing between supermarkets and suppliers came into force in February 2010, but progress towards the creation of a watchdog to scrutinise supermarkets practices has been too slow, according to Mr George.

Mr George said:

Every day food producers are going to the wall. And many more are struggling as a result of the market distorting power of the large supermarkets. Every day this happens means that the proposed supermarket watchdog is being introduced another day too late.

This proposal has cross-party support. The Government has no excuse to delay. Speed is of the essence. No time should be lost in setting up an effective watchdog with real teeth. Food producers here and in the developing world want to concentrate on the efficient production of healthy food not perpetually fight for their survival.

Mr George met with Ed Davey, the Minister responsible for the Adjudicator Bill, earlier this week, and has since written to the Minister to emphasise the need for the watchdog to have real power to protect suppliers from the market dominance of the large supermarkets.

Speaking in the chamber, Mr George, who leads the Liberal Democrat team for  DEFRA, confirmed that recent meetings with Ministers had led to a promise that the draft Bill would be introduced in May, and demanded reassurance from Caroline Spelman, that she would use every endeavour to ensure a  swift introduction of the measure. Ms Spelman paid tribute to Mr Georges work in producing the Bill, and gave an absolute assurance that she would do everything possible to ensure its swift progress.

The draft Hansard record of the exchange can be found at

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