Norman Lamb MP writes… Fairness: from the farm to the shopping trolley

The Groceries Code Adjudicator Bill was announced in the Queen’s Speech on Wednesday. This is an issue which the Liberal Democrats in general, and Andrew George in particular, have campaigned on for many years. I can remember meeting with farmers shortly after I was first elected back in 2001, and hearing from them the difficulties they faced as suppliers for the biggest supermarkets. A commitment to introduce “a powerful independent regulator of Britain’s food market” featured in our last manifesto (in fact, Labour and the Conservative manifestos both included a similar pledge).
 
Following the Competition Commission’s report in 2008, which highlighted the danger of supermarkets abusing their power by transferring “excessive risk and unexpected costs” to farmers, growers and suppliers, the last Labour government did introduce a statutory Groceries Code of Practice. However, laws aren’t much use without the police and courts to pull up those that break them, and with no body charged with enforcing the Code there was nothing to stop retailers simply ignoring it if they wanted to.
 
That is why I am delighted that this Government is introducing the Groceries Code Adjudicator Bill, which was published last Friday. This will create an independent ombudsman to ensure that the Code is respected – and to sanction supermarkets if they break it. Those sanctions include naming and shaming offenders, and if that doesn’t prove effective then ministers can give the Adjudicator the power to levy fines.
 
The Adjudicator will also be able to hear complaints in complete confidence not only from suppliers but also from third party organisations such as the National Farmers Union or War on Want, for example. This means that suppliers don’t have to fear being singled out by supermarkets for putting their head above the parapet.
 
Supermarkets contribute a great deal to our economy, and bring huge benefits for customers. However, their sheer size and dominance should not be licence to treat suppliers unreasonably.

* Norman Lamb MP is Liberal Democrat Minister of State at the Department of Health

Read more by or more about or .
This entry was posted in Op-eds.
Bookmark the web address for this page or use the short url http://ldv.org.uk/28519 for Twitter and emails.

4 Comments

  • John Carlisle 15th May '12 - 11:31am

    Norman Lamb has hit the nail on the head. They must take responsibility for the whole system they operate in. They also need to be transparent on their pricing and margins. However, unless there are more employee-owned retailers, especially cooperatives, it will be difficult for them to have a genuine moral consciousness.

  • Richard Dean 16th May '12 - 12:01pm

    Funnily enough, I suspect this might be welcome news for supermarkets as well as suppliers, but the way it seem to be presented is very one-sided.

    Supermarkets have no interest in destroying their own suppliers, because by doing so they destroy themselves. But they may also have an imperfect understanding of the realities of suppliers’ businesses – they perhaps cannot distinguish between a supplier complaining in order to increase profit on one hand, and a supplier facing bankruptcy on the other. Maybe opposites also apply. If a supplier destroys a supermarket the alternative is a less efficient distribution system some of whose costs are likely to be borne by the supplier.

    The argument about jobs seems to bring a nationalism into the picture which is perhaps not too relevant. A job here and an unemployed person in Sri Lanka makes the same number of jobs and unemployed people as a job in Sri Lanka and an unemployed person here. We can all benefit from trade.

    To be fair, supermarkets also need to be able to complain about suppliers – who may in some cases be larger than the supermarkets and so have more market power. And every one needs the freedom to go bust – that possibility is one motive for continuous improvement. A new, fair system would potentially allow competition and normal commercial negotiations to occur, benefiting everyone including customers, and avoiding undesirable extreme consequences.

Post a Comment

Lib Dem Voice welcomes comments from everyone but we ask you to be polite, to be on topic and to be who you say you are. You can read our comments policy in full here. Please respect it and all readers of the site.

If you are a member of the party, you can have the Lib Dem Logo appear next to your comments to show this. You must be registered for our forum and can then login on this public site with the same username and password.

Your email is never published. Required fields are marked *

*
*
Please complete the name of this site, Liberal Democrat ...?




Recent Comments

  • User AvatarSimon Banks 18th Apr - 8:51am
    Stephen: I agree with your premise about the nature of Liberalism. I disagree with how you apply it to the debate over Jeremy Browne's book....
  • User AvatarJohnTilley 18th Apr - 8:50am
    paul barker 15th Apr '14 - 7:35pm "..The 1st rule of Polling is not to to take much notice of individual Polls, " And The...
  • User AvatarJohn Innes 18th Apr - 8:40am
    @Malc. Totally agree with you - great poster and get Charles Kennedy and Alistair Darling out there more. I really hope that Scotland votes to...
  • User AvatarJohnTilley 18th Apr - 8:34am
    Michael Moore says - "--Currently, our British forces are strategically structured and positioned, not on an arbitrary national level, but on military logic........" Ah yes,...
  • User AvatarJohnTilley 18th Apr - 8:09am
    Thanks for these. Interesting stuff I note that the quality of the 1931 film of Archibald Simon is much better than the 1967 film of...
  • User AvatarRC 18th Apr - 7:51am
    I would echo what George Crozier says. From the door knocking I have done, when you get to speak to them, people I have met...