Tuesday, 31 May 2011

Working towards a fairer deal for Britain’s Farmers

Last week saw the launch of a draft bill that will bring in an “adjudicator” to monitor the Groceries Supply Code of Practice.  This is something I have campaigned for over the decade since the Competition Commission report first raised concerns about the relationship between large supermarket chains and their suppliers.

Ministers said the overseer would “give teeth” to the Code – which has been in place for more than a year – and prevent multiple retailers from taking “advantage of their position of power”.  The draft Bill sets out powers to impose financial penalties on retailers, and promises confidentiality to producers who seek arbitration to “reduce the threat of retaliatory treatment”.

It says the Adjudicator will be paid for by the UK’s ten retailers that are monitored by the Code and have an annual turnover of more than £1 billion.  This will include Tesco, Asda, Sainsbury’s, Morrisons and Waitrose, who will each pay around £120,000 per year.

I want to see a food industry where farmers and food producers are getting a fair deal, and consumers can buy the high-quality, British food they want at a price they can afford and will be consulting with local Young 

Farmers groups and farmers on the draft bill to make sure the Government gets it right.

On the last day in Parliament before the Recess, I led a debate about the future of the Post Office Card Account.  The Coalition has made a series of pledges to protect the post office network such as giving an assurance that there will be no further post office closures, post offices will receive an extra £1.34 billion between now and 2015, and branches will offer an expanded range of financial services.  I was pleased that the Minister made a clear commitment to deliver new services through post offices.  For instance, a pilot scheme has begun whereby if a person applies to claim their state pension or pension credit for example, they can have their identification documents verified at a post office rather than having to send them away to be checked.   

Another scheme is being looked into is whether people in rural areas could sign on in a post office rather than making the journey to a jobcentre which may be some distance away.

I am concerned that incomes for our sub-postmasters, who are in effect small businesses, is worryingly low and will continue to work with Ministers to ensure more financial and government services are delivered in post offices.

Back in Cornwall I held my weekly advice surgery and a number of meetings with local employers before spending the Bank Holiday Weekend enjoying the Fal River Festival.  Congratulations to the organisers and volunteers who have put on an amazing range of fun, interesting as well as tasty activities!  It is great to see the celebration of the Fal Estuary from Truro to Falmouth growing in strength from year to year.  Support for the Castel to Castel swim is amazing as is the Fal River Walk organised by the Rotary Club of Truro Boscawen.  I am sure the sums raised for a wide-range of local good causes will be much appreciated too.

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