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Grocery Sector Ombudsman

Volume 481: debated on Thursday 23 October 2008

5. What recent assessment he has made of the progress made by the Competition Commission in establishing a grocery sector ombudsman. (229220)

The Competition Commission is undertaking an informal consultation on how to establish an ombudsman and is arranging a series of meetings with interested parties. Subject to responses, the commission plans to publish shortly, for wider consultation, a final order on the groceries supply code of practice and undertakings in relation to the ombudsman.

I am sure that the Minister will congratulate the Competition Commission on a thorough, balanced report, which draws conclusions and makes recommendations. Crucially, the commission found that

“the transfer of unexpected costs and excessive risk”

by supermarkets would impede investment and innovation, and would ultimately affect consumer interests, too. In what circumstances would the Government contradict the commission’s carefully considered conclusions and recommendations, particularly with regard to the establishment of the ombudsman?

The hon. Gentleman will forgive me for pointing out to him that the Competition Commission published its report at the end of April. I acknowledge that it did a thorough piece of work. I hope that he acknowledges that the Government, who published their response to that document some three months later, after we had had the chance to talk to a number of interested parties about the commission’s recommendations, also did a thorough job of work in thinking about how to respond to the commission. I hope that he will forgive us if, rather than speculate on what might happen and what might be in the order that the commission publishes, we wait to see what happens in the forthcoming consultation. We will allow the commission to do its work, and we will review our position at the end of the process.