Promise to consider extending the groceries code

Christine Tacon, the Groceries Code Adjudicator.
Christine Tacon, the Groceries Code Adjudicator.
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The Government is to consider whether dairy farmers should be protected against major retailers by the supermarket watchdog, a business minister has said.

Jo Swinson told MPs that calls to extend the remit of the Groceries Supply Code of Practice to include indirect suppliers will be examined.

The jurisdiction of Christine Tacon, the first groceries code adjudicator, appointed in 2013, is currently limited to the code which involves the relationships between the 10 biggest retailers and their suppliers.

Speaking in the Commons, Alan Reid, Lib Dem MP for Argyll and Bute, told Ms Swinson: “I welcome the introduction of big fines for supermarkets that breach the Groceries Supply Code of Practice, but I urge the Government to bring forward the review. We need to extend the code to indirect suppliers such as dairy farmers, who are suffering very much at the moment. They can’t wait another year.”

Ms Swinson replied: “The groceries code adjudicator is already proving to be a great success in her work with supermarket companies by encouraging them to change their behaviour. We have made sure she has, and will have, the power to fine as well as to launch investigations - the first one, of course, was launched recently.

“I think this point about whether the remit should be extended needs to have a further look taken at it and I commit the Government will have a look at that.”

The adjudicator is currently investigating Tesco over a suspected breach of the code in connection with its profit over-statement announced in September. Fines can be imposed on the big retailers of up to one per cent of their annual UK turnover.