Supermarket body barred from giving fines

 

The independent body set up to resolve disputes involving major supermarkets will be barred both from fining those it discovers breaching industry regulations and from investigating whistleblowers’ claims, the government has said.

The plans, announced on Saturday, go against recommendations made by MPs and have been attacked by trades unions and politicians alike, who said they will lead the Groceries Code Adjudicator to be “neutered from the start”.

Mary Creagh, the Shadow Environment Secretary, said: “This government is out of touch with farmers, food processors and consumers alike, when food prices have risen 6 per cent in one year. They should be standing up for shoppers who are feeling the squeeze and the food producers who are the engine for jobs and growth in this, the country’s largest manufacturing sector.”

Two cross-party parliamentary select committees – as well as the Competition Commission – called for an amendment to the Government’s Groceries Code Adjudicator Bill, giving the body more powers. But in its response, the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills said that “financial penalties should be kept as a reserve power”.

The Government said it thought that simply setting up the body would “give the Groceries Code fresh impetus” and that large retailers will want to avoid being investigated, regardless of whether there is the possibility of a fine, not least because of the negative publicity that would attract.

But it also said that “if there is evidence of significant non-compliance with the Groceries Code and the existing regime seems not to be sufficiently effective, there is the prospect of a swift introduction of financial penalties”.

In the document, the Government said that reports from whistleblowers would not be allowed to trigger an investigation because “it is likely that only a direct or indirect supplier would have sufficient information to make an appropriate complaint” against a supermarket.

It added that, while third parties, trade associations and non-governmental organisations will “still have a useful role to play in offering advice and assistance to their stakeholders”, complaints must come direct from the suppliers.

The Government announced plans to set the Adjudicator up in August last year, saying it would be responsible for resolving disputes between supermarkets and their suppliers – often farmers – under its draft Groceries Code Adjudicator Bill. The body will be funded by the supermarkets and will sit within the Office of Fair Trading (OFT), but will be independent when it launches in early 2014, the Government said.

The National Farmers Union (NFU) called the decision a “kick in the teeth” and “inexplicable”. 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.”

A BIS spokesman said: “The Government thanks the BIS Committee for its thorough scrutiny of the draft Groceries Code Adjudicator Bill. Pre-legislative scrutiny plays a very important role in the preparing legislation and informing Parliamentary debate, and ultimate leads to better legislation.”



Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Life and Style
food + drinkClue: You'll either love them or you'll hate them
News
Howard Marks has been diagnosed with inoperable cancer, he has announced
people
News
newsIf you're India's Narendra Modi, it seems the answer is a pinstripe suit emblazoned with your own name
Arts and Entertainment
Preening: Johnny Depp in 'Mortdecai'
filmMortdecai becomes actor's fifth consecutive box office bomb
News
peopleWarning - contains a lot of swearing
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Tradewind Recruitment: Geography Teacher

£90 - £140 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: On behalf of a successful academy i...

Investigo: Finance Business Partner

£45000 - £50000 per annum: Investigo: My client, a global leader in providing ...

Austen Lloyd: Commercial Property Solicitor - West London

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: WEST LONDON - An excellent new opportunity wit...

Recruitment Genius: Florist Shop Manager

£8 - £10 per hour: Recruitment Genius: A Florist Shop Manager is required to m...

Day In a Page

Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

Army general planning to come out
Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

Growing mussels

Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project