Long-awaited plans to introduce a watchdog to oversee the relationship between retailers and farmers are unlikely to come to fruition before 2014.
Liberal Democrat MP Andrew George said the draft Bill to implement a retailer ombudsman would not be heard by MPs until the 2012-13 parliamentary session.
Mr George, who is chairman of the cross-party Grocery Market Action group, said stalling among civil servants meant the Bill would be unlikely to be put in place until 2014 – a delay he deemed as unacceptable.
“It has been a lot of work to get MPs on side because they were sceptical of over-regulation, but this is a regulation that is essential,” he told Farmers Weekly.
“We are talking about suppliers and farmers being pushed to the margin because of the pressure being put on them by over-powerful supermarkets using bully-boy tactics.
“On the Civil Service side, it feels as though there’s some reluctance to act. We have seen further consultation and ended up with a proposal that is being consulted on again.
“For people who believe we are going to deal with this we look as though we don’t understand the urgency of the matter.
“Every week the government fails to act, farmers are finding themselves in more difficulty.”
Mr George said he was working to put pressure on ministers to recognise there was cross-party support for the proposals set out in the draft Bill.
“I am having discussions with Ed Davey [in the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills] to ensure that when the starting gun is fired, the ombudsman can be rolled out immediately and civil servants are geared up to act,” he added.
“I am also having discussions with the leader of the House to make sure they are properly raising the issue to find the time to discuss it during the parliamentary session.
“In my role as a quasi-DEFRA minister, I have also been trying to be ‘coalitionised’ and have meetings with Jim Paice and DEFRA minister Caroline Spelman to help push the issue.
“We will be giving it a strong push in the autumn – the pressure is definitely on.”