Lobbyists hijack quango bill to create supermarket watchdog

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The Independent Online

Agriculture and environment campaigners have hijacked the "bonfire of the quangos" bill, to try to ensure the establishment of a supermarket czar to protect farmers.

A House of Lords committee will consider amendments on Tuesday to the Public Bodies Bill, which is looking to reduce the number of quangos from 901 to 648. The amendments call for "conferring the function of groceries code adjudicator" on the Office of Fair Trading.

The Grocery Market Action Group, which includes the National Farmers Union and anti-poverty campaigner Traidcraft, has been lobbying parliamentarians to tag on amendments on to largely unrelated legislation. Although the coalition is committed to establishing the post, which would protect farmers' profit margins from being squeezed, a cramped legislative timetable means that it would not hit the statute books until at least 2012.

A draft bill has been promised this year, but the action group has decided to "think creatively" about speeding up the introduction of an ombudsman, according to a campaign source.

Many Lib Dems are understood to be keen to support the amendments, as this policy is closer to their core beliefs than much of the coalition's plans.