SNP MEP On UK "Grocery Ombudsman

13 January 2010
SNP Member of the European Parliament's Agriculture Committee Alyn Smith has today reacted with some scepticism to the announcement that the UK government is to consult on the establishment of a "Grocery Ombudsman" and dismissed the news as a cynical piece of electioneering from a resolutely anti-farming Labour government.

Smith said:

"We have long been pressing for the establishment of an ombudsman with teeth, because I believe the food supply chain is under the same sort of stress the global financial system was a few years ago.

"The news that the UK government has accepted the case, and will launch a consultation next month is to be welcomed. However, the UK election is looming and I am not alone in being struck by the sudden conversion in recent weeks of the UK government to all manner of farming issues.

"The fact is, if the Labour government lose the election then there is no guarantee that any incoming party or coalition will continue the work, so a big part of me views this news as a too little too late sop to farmers and I hope people will not allow the wool to be pulled over their eyes.

"Here in Brussels I have had real success in establishing a European Prices and Margins Observatory with a budget of one and a half million euro in the first year. This was my amendment to the EU budget, and we are now in detailed discussions on how the Commission is going to take this effort forward to provide credible data across the whole of the EU. I want to see this observatory turn into an ombudsman with teeth.

"Of course, I would like to see the necessary powers returned to Scotland so we could set something up that would suit Scottish needs, but the constitutional situation is, for the moment, what it is. Today's cynical announcement demonstrates that the UK government will play politics with vital issues when we in Scotland could be doing better."