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
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

Ashdown Group: Senior VMware Platform Engineer - VMware / SAN / Tier3 DC

£45000 - £55000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Senior VMware Platform En...

Recruitment Genius: Purchasing Assistant

£10000 - £16000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A distributor of specialist ele...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Ledger Assistant

£17000 - £19000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A distributor of specialist ele...

Ashdown Group: Automated Tester / Test Analyst - .Net / SQL - Cheshire

£32000 per annum + pension, healthcare & 23 days holiday: Ashdown Group: A gro...

Day In a Page

War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable
Living with Alzheimer's: What is it really like to be diagnosed with early-onset dementia?

What is it like to live with Alzheimer's?

Depicting early-onset Alzheimer's, the film 'Still Alice' had a profound effect on Joy Watson, who lives with the illness. She tells Kate Hilpern how she's coped with the diagnosis
The Internet of Things: Meet the British salesman who gave real-world items a virtual life

Setting in motion the Internet of Things

British salesman Kevin Ashton gave real-world items a virtual life
Election 2015: Latest polling reveals Tories and Labour on course to win the same number of seats - with the SNP holding the balance of power

Election 2015: A dead heat between Mr Bean and Dick Dastardly!

Lord Ashcroft reveals latest polling – and which character voters associate with each leader
Audiences queue up for 'true stories told live' as cult competition The Moth goes global

Cult competition The Moth goes global

The non-profit 'slam storytelling' competition was founded in 1997 by the novelist George Dawes Green and has seen Malcolm Gladwell, Salman Rushdie and Molly Ringwald all take their turn at the mic
Pakistani women come out fighting: A hard-hitting play focuses on female Muslim boxers

Pakistani women come out fighting

Hard-hitting new play 'No Guts, No Heart, No Glory' focuses on female Muslim boxers
Leonora Carrington transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star

Surreal deal: Leonora Carrington

The artist transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star
LGBT History Month: Pupils discuss topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage

Education: LGBT History Month

Pupils have been discussing topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage
11 best gel eyeliners

Go bold this season: 11 best gel eyeliners

Use an ink pot eyeliner to go bold on the eyes with this season's feline flicked winged liner
Cricket World Cup 2015: Tournament runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

Cricket World Cup runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

The tournament has reached its halfway mark and scores of 300 and amazing catches abound. One thing never changes, though – everyone loves beating England
Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Heptathlete ready to jump at first major title

Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Ready to jump at first major title

After her 2014 was ruined by injury, 21-year-old Briton is leading pentathlete going into this week’s European Indoors. Now she intends to turn form into gold
Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot