MP urges curbs on supermarkets power

14 May 1998

MP urges curbs on supermarkets’ power

By Catherine Hughes

SUPERMARKETS power must be curbed and addressed by the Competition Bill, demands Lib-Dem MP Colin Breed.

Mr Breed said the Competition Bill, which received its second reading in the House of Commons this week, should be used to bring UK supermarkets more into line with their Continental counterparts. Mainland European supermarkets do not have the same buying power.

A report commissioned by Mr Breed, Checking Out The Supermarkets: Competition in Retailing, points out the deficiencies of the supply chain system and anti-competitive nature of the food retail industry.

The report also argues for a widening of the definition of public interest in the enforcement of competition law and presses the House of Commons Select Committee on Trade and Industry to investigate the competition implications of four of the larger food retailers.

And it recommends the introduction of an industry-wide code of practice for the supermarkets buying and distribution systems, and the introduction of national policies for sourcing local products for supermarkets.

“Food is a necessity,” said Mr Breed, “yet, unlike the utility industries, it is not regulated.”

Supermarkets might have benefits in supplying cheap food, he explained, but there is a price to pay in squeezing suppliers margins, destroying High Street trade and the environment, he said.

Mr Breed also added that supermarkets do sell local and organic produce, but only pay lip-service to this produce by not marketing it properly and over-pricing it, and then blaming lack of sales on lack of demand.

Mr Breed said if reports of planned mergers were true, we could be down to just two main retailers, who will have a huge monopoly on food supply.

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