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Adjudicator Must be Able to Fine Unfair Retailers

21 November 2012
National Farmers Union

UK - As the Groceries Code Adjudicator Bill looks set to become law, the National Farmers Union says that although it is a strong and workable piece of legislation, improvements can still be made if it is to be truly effective.

The Bill had its second reading in the House of Commons on Monday, and will now be considered in Committee over a number of days in the coming weeks, and it is expected that it will complete its passage through Parliament in early 2013.

The government is already recruiting the adjudicator in order that they can begin the important job of monitoring and enforcing the Groceries Code as soon as the Bill becomes law.

NFU President Peter Kendall said: “We are now in the home straight after over a decade of campaigning for an effective body that can ensure the big supermarkets treat their suppliers fairly. The NFU has been at the forefront of getting an adjudicator up and running, working with a wide range of organisations and individuals, and we at last have the finishing line in sight. However, while the current Bill is in many ways a strong and workable piece of legislation, there are still improvements that need making.

Most importantly, MPs must amend the Bill to ensure the adjudicator will, from day one, be able to fine retailers who are found to be in serious breach of the Groceries Code.

“Producers and suppliers have for too long been subject to unfair treatment by large retailers. Despite some positive work in recent years, abuse still happens. It is vital that Parliament ensures the adjudicator is equipped with the full range of powers to do his or her job effectively.”

NFU head of government affairs Nick von Westenholz said that the debate showed the depth of support for a strong and effective adjudicator from all sides of the House. “We were particularly encouraged to hear the Minister, David Heath, recognise that MPs had overwhelmingly spoken in favour of fining powers to be made available to the adjudicator from the outset, and we look forward to further discussions with Ministers about amending the Bill to include this important provision,” he added.

ActionAid also urged the Government to introduce fines to penalise supermarkets that treat suppliers unfairly.

The Supermarket Watchdog will be toothless unless it is given the power to levy fines on supermarkets that treat suppliers unfairly, warns anti-poverty agency ActionAid.

Melanie Ward, ActionAid’s Head of Advocacy says: “Having got the Groceries Code Adjudicator Bill this far, it is time for the Government to stand up to the power of supermarkets. Vince Cable must give the Supermarket Watchdog the teeth to do its job effectively - the power to levy fines from Day One.

“Only with the ability to hit big supermarkets where it hurts – their profit margins – will the watchdog be able to protect vulnerable farmers and producers around the world from being treated unfairly," Ms Ward added.

“The Bill will now be considered clause by clause by a committee of MPs, and this provides the final, crucial opportunity to amend the Bill before it becomes law so that it really is fit for purpose. We will be working with MPs in the coming days and weeks to ensure a good Bill becomes a first-rate Act of Parliament,” concluded Mr von Westenholz.

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