Groceries Code Adjudicator Bill has second reading

23 May 2012

The Groceries Code Adjudicator Bill had its second reading - the first chance for members to discuss main aspects on the bill - in the House of Lords yesterday (Tuesday 22 May)

The debate, with 19 listed speakers, was opened by Baroness Wilcox (Conservative). She outlined the main reasons for the bill: 'The purpose of the bill is to establish a groceries code adjudicator to enforce the groceries code and ensure that large supermarket retailers treat their suppliers fairly and lawfully,' she explained.

Lord Grantchester (Labour) has a special interest in the rural economy and has past experience as chairman of a farmer-controlled co-operative supplying milk and other dairy products to major retailers.

He highlighted the need for this new legislation. 'Today brings a major step forward in the implementation of a more honest and transparent regime in the relationship between the major retailers and their suppliers,' he said.

The Earl of Sandwich, who is a member of the National Farmer's Union and has experience with fair trade organisations such as Traidcraft and the Fair Trade Foundation, declared his close interest in the bill.

He supported the smaller suppliers in his speech: 'From small beginnings, these organisations have made tremendous inroads into our supermarkets in recent years. I also know it has been an uphill struggle for some of them, just as it has for small farmers and milk producers, who often operate just the wrong side of the price margins. It means everything to them to get this sort of guarantee,' he said.

Other speakers included Baroness Byford (Conservative), a former spokesperson for food, farming and rural affarirs and Lord Razzall (Liberal Democrat), a former spokesperson for trade and industry/business, enterprise and regulatory reform.

The bill has been 'committed' to the next stage (committee stage) and members must now agree a suggested order to discuss parts of the bill (clauses and schedules).

About the bill

The bill, which was introduced in the House of Lords at first reading stage on 10 May, examines the practices of larger supermarket chains with their suppliers, including farmers and small-scale producers.

It follows concerns raised in a report published by the Competition Commission in 2008, that retailers were demanding retrospective charges from suppliers and altering contractual arrangements.

The new groceries code applies to the UK's ten 'large' retailers with a turnover of more than one billion pounds in groceries. The code will ensure that retailers:

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

Next stage: Committee stage

Detailed line by line examination of the separate parts (clauses and schedules) of the bill takes place during committee stage. Any member of the Lords can take part.

It usually starts no fewer than two weeks after the second reading and can last for one to eight days or more.

The day before committee stage starts, amendments (changes) are published in a marshalled list – in which all the amendments are placed in order. Amendments on related subjects are grouped together and a list (groupings of amendments) is published on the day.

During committee stage every clause of the Bill has to be agreed to and votes on the amendments can take place. All proposed amendments can be discussed and there is no time limit – or guillotine - on discussion of amendments.

What is second reading stage?

Second reading is the first opportunity for members of the Lords to debate the main principles and purpose of the bill and to flag up concerns and areas where they think changes (amendments) are needed.

Before second reading takes place, a list of speakers for the second reading debate is opened and interested members add their names to it.

The government minister, spokesperson or a member of the Lords responsible for the bill opens the debate.

Any member can speak in the debate so this stage can indicate those members particularly interested in the bill - or a particular aspect of it - and those who are most likely to be involved in amending the bill at later stages.

Second reading debates usually last for a few hours but sometimes stretch over a couple of days.

Further information

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