Liberal leader criticises supermarket power

Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg MP has criticised the impact of government policy on local meat sourcing and described Britain's food market as a "trolleygarchy."

Speaking that the NFU conference yesterday (18 February), Clegg insisted that in order to slow climate change, the Government must work to establish a better network of local abattoirs and start sourcing sustainable meat.

"Once Meat Hygiene Services move to recovering all their costs, local abattoirs will go, and food miles will get worse. We mustn't allow it to happen," he said.

"And government should look again at what it buys. Every year, 617 million school meals are served in England. And the NHS spends 300 million pounds on food. Isn't it time they started buying sustainably?"

Clegg dismissed the recent Competition Commission (CC) proposals for failing to reign in supermarket power and said that while he believed the market should set prices for goods, he would only welcome such a market if it encouraged farmers to be more efficient to the benefit of customers.

"If it is delivered by threats, blacklisting, and bully-boy tactics, it delivers only profits for the retailer, not lower prices on the shelf, the market has failed," he said.

Clegg said that the CC's proposals would only increase rivalry between supermarkets and didn't look fully at the problems faced by the primary producers who supply multiples. Although in favour of an ombudsman, Clegg warned that such a figure must have sufficient power and anonymity to be successful in monitoring the supply chain.

"I want a strong Food Trade Inspector, with his own powers of investigation, to enable complaints to be properly examined - with total anonymity for complainants. And I want planning rules to stop, not encourage, another generation of out-of-town stores springing up," he said.

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