Farmers 'not a priority for the UK government'

In the wake of a second formal investigation into Tesco’s treatment of suppliers, Scottish MEP Alyn Smith has slammed the UK Government for taking more than a year to grant the Groceries Code Adjudicator the power to fine supermarkets for dodgy practices.

The Groceries Code Adjudicator, Christine Tacon, has confirmed she has “reasonable suspicion” that Tesco breached the Groceries Supply Code of Practice. This comes after the Serious Fraud Office launched an ongoing investigation into the supermarket giant in 2014.  

Alyn, Scotland’s only voice on the European Parliament’s Agriculture Committee said:

“In 2013, Christine asked for the power to fine retailers 1% of their annual turnover but we’re only now seeing the UK Government creaking into action. 

“The GCA cannot fine supermarkets retrospectively. If Tesco is found guilty, I’m sure the £400million fine the coalition government saved them will cushion the blow.

“The Business Secretary himself has condemned the Treasury’s ‘inertia’ in granting the GCA the necessary authority.

“All the while, farmers have been struggling with delayed payments, pay-to-stay deals, and a supply chain weighted heavily in favour of the retailers. 

“The European Commission adopted a Communication suggesting a set of principles to tackle Unfair Trading Practices, again back in 2013. I asked Commissioner Bienkowska whether, in the wake of the investigation into Tesco, it was still deemed best to leave the implementation to individual governments. She replied that the Commission will be assessing the effectiveness of these frameworks and there is scope for EU-wide action.

“I fully support the autonomy of the individual governments but it couldn’t be any clearer that farmers are not a priority for the UK Government. My colleague in the EU’s report on Unfair Trading Practices, Mairead McGuinness, has stated, “some of the worst examples of abuse are coming from the UK.” It’s hard to disagree, and maybe we do need EU-wide legislation.   

“In the meantime, I strongly welcome these much-needed new powers for the GCA and I’ll provide any support I can.”