Tuesday, 4 December 2012

Grocery Bill finally gets its fining teeth today

During the HC Debate on the 19 November 2012 we passed the Grocery Code Adjudicator Bill into committee, with big support, but a disappointment that the ability to fine supermarkerts was not as robust or immediate as it should be. My Defra specialist colleague Neil Parish replied to my question on this issue, when I asked him as follows:
Guy Opperman (Hexham, Conservative)
I endorse what my hon. Friend is saying and I know that the growers and producers in Northumberland will support this Bill wholeheartedly. What robust measures does he think would genuinely hold the supermarkets to account?

Neil Parish (Tiverton and Honiton, Conservative)
I would like to see fines incorporated into the Bill—I am sure that the Government will listen when it is debated in Committee—so that there is real pain. I believe that the threat of fines, as well as that of naming and shaming, will help make sure that not too many of the large retailers will have to go before the adjudicator. If they have nothing to hide and if their retail trade practices are right, they will have nothing whatsoever to fear, either from the Bill or from potential fines. It is not only the producer who is at risk in these trades. Many of the direct contracts that the supermarkets have with farmers in the dairy and meat trades are excellent. However, supermarkets may decide to have a price war and to reduce their prices, perhaps by using these products as loss leaders. That is wonderful for consumers, provided that it is the supermarkets who pay for those loss leaders, and that they do not go back down the chain and squeeze not only the producer, but the processor.
The great news is that in Committee today the Business Department, having consulted with Defra and colleagues, has agreed and there will now be real fines going forward, from day 1, to hold supermarkets to account. I am delighted, and it is a good sign of a government who actually listen to parliamentary debate.