Parliamentary Sketch : A debt of honour

Posted on: 31st May 2012

If it can make its way through the queues at Heathrow’s passport control without enflaming the situation, the Olympic Torch will arrive from Greece to commence its journey from West Cornwall this week, before touring the rest of the UK in preparation for the Games this July/August.

Our chance to show case ourselves, our scenery and (hopefully) our wonderful climate(!) to a wider world. An opportunity to celebrate and then to congratulate. From the Flame’s arrival at Culdrose on Friday evening to the send off from Land’s End early Saturday morning and relay through Penzance and Helston we hope it will provide a memorable event of which we and the rest of the UK will be proud.

I also used this week in Parliament to celebrate the eventual success of a long campaign; one I have persevered to achieve over more than 10 years. Initially I was on my own when I concluded that the only way to bring supermarket bully-boys to book was through a system of policing which forced them to play fair with their farmer and grower suppliers. The National Farmers’ Union proposed a voluntary ‘Buyer’s Charter’ and even my own Party were wary of upsetting the powerful supermarkets.

But I gathered more evidence, called together those with like minds, and campaigned. The NFU’s ‘Buyer’s Charter’ faded without trace and they joined the Grocery Market Action Group I was privileged to be asked to chair when it came together over 6 years ago.

Though the road was long – with a crucial Competition Commission Report – the House of Commons began to debate this week the Grocery Code Adjudicator Bill (i.e. to create a Supermarket Watchdog) which has the support of all political parties. I’ve sought to reassure the top brass of the larger supermarkets that if they have nothing to hide then they have nothing to fear. If they play fair with their smaller suppliers, don’t keep changing the contracts and paying late, then they can happily embrace this Watchdog.

Meanwhile I notice that the Sunday Times Rich list shows that the richest 1000 people (0.003% of the UK adult population) increased their wealth over the last three years by over £155bn. As net public sector borrowing last year was £126bn, this league of mega rich, which includes bankers, hedge fund and private equity operators, many of whom helped to cause the financial crash, have a choice of helping to pay off the debts or opting for the next best tax avoidance scheme. I wonder which they’ll go for?

15th May 2012