Groceries Bill: Lords considers Commons’ changes

14 March 2013

The Groceries Code Adjudicator Bill bounced back to the House of Lords on Wednesday 13 March for consideration of Commons' amendments, 'ping pong'

Lord De Mauley (Conservative), the parliamentary under-secretary of state for the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, opened the debate, saying: ‘Commons Amendments 1 to 9, 11, 14 and 16 all together resolve what has been the most hotly debated topic of this bill: whether the adjudicator should have the power to fine written on to the face of the bill. As the government have said throughout, and as the Business Innovation and Skills (BIS) Select Committee has also acknowledged, this is an issue that is finely balanced... I would like to make clear that I expect fines to be used as a last resort, only for the most egregious or repeated offences. However, the very fact that the adjudicator has the power to impose them will send a strong message to retailers that compliance with the code is not optional.’

Lord Knight of Weymouth (Labour) followed, saying: ‘...the government have found the right way of doing things. They have taken a policy that was developed by the previous Labour government and have bought it forward in legislation. As the bill has gone through Parliament, they have listened to voices, including from Her Majesty's Opposition, pressing for the adjudicator to have teeth from day one with the right to fine. I am delighted that they have given concessions... On balance, we are very happy with this bill. We support the amendments made in the other place and those before us this evening and we look forward to its speedy implementation.’

The bill was returned to the Commons with one amendment. The next stage of ping pong, the Commons considering the amendment, is yet to be scheduled.

Consideration of amendments/ping pong explained

Once the bill has completed its stages in the House of Lords the bill returns to the Commons where they will consider any amendments made.

If they change anything both Houses need to agree to the exact wording of the bill and the bill may 'ping pong' between both houses until this happens.

When the exact wording of the bill has been agreed by both Houses the bill is ready for royal assent. Once a bill receives royal assent it becomes an Act of Parliament (proposals in the bill become law).

The bill's progress so far

Summary of the Groceries Code Adjudicator Bill

The bill examines the practices of larger supermarket chains with regard to their suppliers, including farmers and small-scale producers. It seeks to establish the office of the Groceries Code Adjudicator, whose role is to enforce and oversee the Groceries Code.

The new groceries code will apply to the UK's ten 'large' retailers, each with a turnover of more than one billion pounds in groceries. If the bill is passed, the code will ensure that retailers:

  • deal fairly and lawfully with suppliers
  • do not vary supply arrangements retrospectively
  • pay suppliers within a reasonable time

Next and final stage: Royal assent

Once a bill has completed all its parliamentary stages in both Houses, it's ready to receive royal assent and become an act of Parliament (law). Royal assent is the Queen's formal agreement to make the bill into an act.

There is no set time period between the consideration of amendments and royal assent.

When royal assent has been given, an announcement is made in both Houses by the Lord Speaker in the Lords and the Speaker in the Commons.

At prorogation (the formal end to a parliamentary session), Black Rod interrupts the proceedings of the Commons and summons MPs to the Lords chamber to hear the Lords commissioners announce royal assent for each bill.

Further information

Image: iStockphoto

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