Give retail watchdog more power, say MPs

MPs have called for stronger powers to be granted to the government’s proposed supermarket watchdog.

The Environment, Food and Rural Affairs committee has written to colleagues, having taken evidence from farmers and food producers.

Committee chairman Anne McIntosh said: “The Efra committee is keen to ensure the new adjudicator will adequately protect farmers and food producers from large retailers.”

Mrs McIntosh said the committee had contacted its colleagues on the Business, Innovation and Skills select committee about the evidence it had received.

“For many years, there has been a ‘climate of fear’ in the groceries supply chain,” she said.

The committee endorsed a provision that would allow the adjudicator to receive anonymous complaints from direct or indirect suppliers about retailers.

But the government should amend the legislation so trade organisations could make complaints on behalf of farmers and food producers reluctant to jeopardise their commercial relationships.

“We also recommend that the adjudicator should be able to undertake pro-active investigations and that the adjudicator should have the power to impose financial penalties as soon as it is established.”

The recommendation comes a week after NFU president Peter Kendall told the committee he believed an adjudicator should be more proactive.

NFU director of policy, Martin Haworth said: “This is a real victory for farmers and growers. We are pleased that the Efra committee has listened to our concerns and acted on them.

“Giving the adjudicator the power to launch investigations on the basis of credible evidence, and allowing organisations such as the NFU to make complaints on behalf of our members, would send a strong message to retailers that unethical business practices will not be tolerated.”