Allan Bowie welcomes adjudicator bill

More than a decade of pressure and lobbying from farming organisations yesterday produced the Draft Groceries Code Adjudicator Bill which suppliers hope will ensure a fairer and more equable relationship with the major retailers.

Allan Bowie, NFU Scotland's vice-president, described the draft bill which was presented in Westminster as "a milestone in the long-term goal of ensuring the establishment of an effective policing body".

Rejecting a claim by the major retailers that the setting up of an adjudicator would cost consumers, Bowie stated: "The primary driver for an adjudicator is about protecting consumers, not suppliers.

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"These large retailers make enough profit in a couple of hours of trading to cover the cost of an adjudicator for a whole year. There is no reason why any additional costs to retailers cannot be swallowed up in their sizeable margins.

"The Competition Commission report from 2008 concluded that the unfairness in supplier-retailer relationships adversely affects consumer choice, due to both reduced innovation and reduced investment by suppliers.

Although he had not yet digested the details of the proposal, he hoped that the adjudicator would have the teeth to rectify this situation.

"What we need to do now is get to the bottom of exactly how much power this adjudicator will have."

Bowie laid emphasis on the section of the draft document that stated that many suppliers were afraid to make complaints against the major retailers.

"Suppliers must also be able to report to the adjudicator confidentially and anonymously, to address the climate of fear that has prevented them doing so previously."