Supermarket watchdog pledges to be impartial

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THE UK’s first “supermarket ombudsman” has promised she will be impartial when ruling on disputes between farmers and buyers as she made her first appearance in Parliament since being offered the new role.

Christine Tacon, who is set to become Britain’s first Grocery Code Adjudicator later this year, told MPs she was not concerned that supermarkets might try to paint her as being biased toward growers, due to her past career in the agriculture industry.

“They might say that, but I think the code is very clear as to what it’s there to represent, and (the job) is effectively just judging whether the code has been broken,” she told the Commons business committee.

“I have a good understanding of both sides, but I don’t intend to favour one side over the other. I’m just going to interpret the code.”

Ms Tacon previously ran the Co-op’s farming business before being recommended for the £69,000-a-year role.

If confirmed, her job will be to ensure supermarkets stick to an agreed code of conduct, in a bid to prevent the exploitation of smaller farmers.

The Bill to establish the new watchdog passed its second reading in Parliament on Tuesday night, with cross-party support.

A lone voice of opposition was Shipley’s Tory MP Philip Davies, a former Asda employee, who insisted supermarkets are already sticking to the voluntary code of practice.

“The Bill is a nonsense,” he said. “There is no evidence the groceries code is being abused.”