Government stalls over supermarket ombudsman

The government has stalled making a decision on the proposed supermarket ombudsman until the end of the year – a course that has been labelled as “a concern” by industry leaders.

The delay from Lord Mandelson comes despite recommendations from a competition watchdog that creating a supermarket ombudsman would benefit the whole food chain.

“It is disappointing that Lord Mandelson has yet to be convinced that creating a ‘policeman’ for the grocery sector has the potential to serve the whole supply chain of producers, processors, retailers and consumers,” said NFU Scotland chief executive, James Withers.

Labour MP, Lindsay Hoyle also called for Ministers to back the Competition Commission (CC) recommendations warning that the squeeze on prices was threatening to drive farmers out of business.

Terry Jones, head of the NFU’s London office, said it was essential the industry maintained its lobbying until a final decision is made.

“We will focus on trying to make the case to the Minister that an ombudsman is in the best interest of consumers and suppliers,” he said.

I have yet to hear an intelligent, justifiable argument for why we don’t need an ombudsman, said Mr Withers.

“The challenge for Lord Mandelson now is to come up with one by the end of the year unless he wants to be the first Minister to ignore this kind of recommendation from a competition watchdog.”

Ministers are also considering a recommendation by the CC to introduce a competition test for the building of new supermarkets and the Ministers at the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills have confirmed the Government will respond to the two issues at the same time