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Groceries Code Adjudicator Bill

Volume 542: debated on Thursday 15 March 2012

I hope to introduce the Groceries Code Adjudicator Bill into Parliament as soon as parliamentary time allows. The Leader of the House confirmed on 15 December last year that it was a strong candidate for the second Session of this Parliament.

Given that the Select Committee on Business, Innovation and Skills was asked to carry out pre-legislative scrutiny on the draft Bill before the summer recess last year, and that over the past six months we have had the lightest legislative programme that I can remember, what reassurance can the Minister give to suppliers that the Government are still committed to introducing the Bill, in line with their manifesto commitments?

I can give absolute reassurance to the hon. Gentleman that the Government remain completely committed to implementing the Bill, and that we will do so as soon as parliamentary time allows.

The Select Committee on Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has taken some compelling evidence from growers who have virtually no protection from month to month in their agreements with supermarkets. Will the Minister assure the House that the adjudicator will have powers of investigation and the power to levy fines on those who do not obey the code?

The adjudicator will have powers of investigation. On the question of fines, there will be a reserve power in the Bill. However, the Government take the view that the other powers, particularly the power to name and shame supermarkets, should be sufficient to have a significant effect on behaviour. If they do not have that effect, there will be the reserve power to introduce fines.

Will the Minister ensure that when the Bill emerges, it has the necessary legislative consent motion from the Northern Ireland Assembly, so that it can apply across the jurisdiction?