UK - Consumer and Competition Minister Jo Swinson has announce the appointment of former Co-operative farms managing director Christine Tacon to the newly created role as the independent Groceries Code Adjudicator.
In her new role Ms Tacon will be responsible for enforcing the Groceries Supply Code of Practice, which regulates interactions between the ten largest supermarkets with an annual turnover of £1bn and their direct suppliers.
In addition, the Adjudicator will have the power to launch investigations into suspected breaches of the Code, including those arising from confidential complaints from any source. If she finds evidence of a breach, the Adjudicator will be able to make recommendations against a supermarket, require them to publish details of their breach, or, in the most extreme cases, to impose fines. She will also have the power to arbitrate disputes between large supermarkets and their direct suppliers.
Welcoming the appointment, Jo Swinson said: “I congratulate Christine Tacon on her appointment as Groceries Code Adjudicator. This is an incredibly important position in the retail groceries sector making sure that large supermarkets treat their suppliers fairly and lawfully. Ms Tacon has a wide range of experience in the food, retail and farming industry and her appointment is a real milestone. Her knowledge of the sector will be of huge benefit, and I’m sure will be crucial in making the Groceries Code Adjudicator a positive and powerful contributor to the groceries industry.”
Christine Tacon said: "Being the Groceries Code Adjudicator is a significant responsibility, and I am honoured to have been given the chance to make a permanent and enduring difference to the groceries sector. Coming from a commercial background, I am sure that if we can increase trust between retailers and their direct suppliers, it will lead to greater efficiency and can only have a beneficial impact on the rest of the supply chain."
The Groceries Code Adjudicator Bill, which will formally create the office of the Adjudicator, is currently before Parliament. Christine Tacon will act as Adjudicator-Designate until the office of the Adjudicator is established by law, when she will formally take up the four year appointment.
Ministers have also agreed that she will appear before the BIS Select Committee for a pre-appointment hearing.
Adrian Bailey MP, Chair of the Committee said: “This is a welcome change of policy from the Government, which was called for by the Select Committee and Opposition team in the debate on the Bill. It is also perfectly consistent with the approach taken by the Government in securing as much pre-legislative scrutiny as possible.
“The Select Committee spent many hours taking evidence on this issue and will examine the suitability of the proposed candidate against this evidence and the recommendations it made.”
NFU head of food and farming Phil Hudson said: "This is an important step forward and will reassure farmers that progress continues to be made to introduce an adjudicator that will have the necessary 'teeth' to curb the abuses of power that can undermine farmers and the supply chain, with implications for consumers.
"We lobbied Government for an independent adjudicator who can enforce the GSCOP, and can ensure a level playing field across the supply chain, and we are pleased to see this has come to fruition. Now Ms Tacon has been appointed, we look forward to her taking up post and quickly getting to grips with the issues affecting our members. Once she has formally taken up her role we will look to meet her to discuss our concerns over the way in which the supply chain operates."
The NFU has consistently called for a GCA to ensure a level playing field in the grocery supply chain, for the adjudicator to have the power to take credible evidence from reputable sources, and to be able to fine retailers for breaking the GSCOP.
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