The Queen's speech: will the Groceries Code work?

Funds absorbed by the Groceries Code Adjudicator leave less money for retailers’ supply chains.

The way the Government implements the new Quango, the Groceries Code Adjudicator, will be a real test of its oft-stated commitment to better regulation. We already have the most regulated grocery sector in the world and the new Adjudicator has the potential to add unnecessary burdens to companies that have been key in creating jobs and helping hard-pressed consumers cope with the economic downturn.

It’s in retailers’ own interests to have excellent relationships with their suppliers. They depend on a successful and resilient supply chain to keep their shelves stocked with the produce consumers want to buy. This relationship is backed up by the Groceries Supply Code of Practice, which sets legal conditions on contracts with suppliers and includes the right to independent arbitration. It’s worth remembering the bulk of our products are sourced from large, often multi-national food companies, not direct from farmers. It seems bizarre these companies, many bigger than the retailers, require more protection.

The proposed Adjudicator is in danger of adding to the cost and bureaucracy of running a grocery business without adding to the strong protection which already exists for suppliers. As the Government pushes ahead with the legislation to create the Adjudicator, the priority must be to minimise the burden it threatens to impose.

It should only be able to pursue specific complaints from suppliers which have direct relationships with the retailers, and which are related to the Groceries Code. Allowing third party complaints would open retailers up to malicious campaigns and fishing expeditions from those without full knowledge of the agreements involved, at a great cost to all parts of the grocery supply chain. Funds absorbed by the Adjudicator leave less money for retailers to spend where it matters most – on investing in their supply chains and keeping costs down for consumers.

Andrew Opie is the British Retail Consortium Food Director.

Photograph: Getty Images

Andrew Opie is the Retail Consortium Food Director.

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How the Lib Dems learned to love all-women shortlists

Yes, the sitting Lib Dem MPs are mostly white, middle-aged middle class men. But the party's not taking any chances. 

I can’t tell you who’ll be the Lib Dem candidate in Southport on 8 June, but I do know one thing about them. As they’re replacing a sitting Lib Dem (John Pugh is retiring) - they’ll be female.

The same is true in many of our top 20 target seats, including places like Lewes (Kelly-Marie Blundell), Yeovil (Daisy Benson), Thornbury and Yate (Clare Young), and Sutton and Cheam (Amna Ahmad). There was air punching in Lib Dem offices all over the country on Tuesday when it was announced Jo Swinson was standing again in East Dunbartonshire.

And while every current Lib Dem constituency MP will get showered with love and attention in the campaign, one will get rather more attention than most - it’s no coincidence that Tim Farron’s first stop of the campaign was in Richmond Park, standing side by side with Sarah Olney.

How so?

Because the party membership took a long look at itself after the 2015 election - and a rather longer look at the eight white, middle-aged middle class men (sorry chaps) who now formed the Parliamentary party and said - "we’ve really got to sort this out".

And so after decades of prevarication, we put a policy in place to deliberately increase the diversity of candidates.

Quietly, over the last two years, the Liberal Democrats have been putting candidates into place in key target constituencies . There were more than 300 in total before this week’s general election call, and many of them have been there for a year or more. And they’ve been selected under new procedures adopted at Lib Dem Spring Conference in 2016, designed to deliberately promote the diversity of candidates in winnable seats

This includes mandating all-women shortlists when selecting candidates who are replacing sitting MPs, similar rules in our strongest electoral regions. In our top 10 per cent of constituencies, there is a requirement that at least two candidates are shortlisted from underrepresented groups on every list. We became the first party to reserve spaces on the shortlists of winnable seats for underrepresented candidates including women, BAME, LGBT+ and disabled candidates

It’s not going to be perfect - the hugely welcome return of Lib Dem grandees like Vince Cable, Ed Davey and Julian Huppert to their old stomping grounds will strengthen the party but not our gender imbalance. But excluding those former MPs coming back to the fray, every top 20 target constituency bar one has to date selected a female candidate.

Equality (together with liberty and community) is one of the three key values framed in the preamble to the Lib Dem constitution. It’s a relief that after this election, the Liberal Democratic party in the Commons will reflect that aspiration rather better than it has done in the past.

Richard Morris blogs at A View From Ham Common, which was named Best New Blog at the 2011 Lib Dem Conference

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