Exclusive Clive Beddall The CWS is urging Trade and Industry Secretary Stephen Byers to involve the Co-op in the DTI's controversial new trading code for the top five multiples and their suppliers. In a letter to consumer affairs minister Kim Howells, CWS head of corporate affairs Bill Shannon said: "A code drawn up by the large multiples only, who have a different agenda and different issues, could be damaging to our interest; and given we are inevitably going to be bound by the code, we ask to be involved in the process in line with the Commission's recommendation." The move came as the big five ­ Asda, Safeway, Sainsbury, Somerfield and Tesco ­ met under the auspices of IGD this week to consider their responses to the draft code drawn by up OFT lawyers at the request of Stephen Byers last week. No official statements were made afterwards, but The Grocer understands that several executives variously described the draft as "misguided and naive", emphasising the importance of the "fullest possible consultation" with the OFT before the final version goes to the DTI. Said one multiple source: "It's clear that Stephen Byers wants to save face on the Rip-off Britain issue by persisting with a legally binding code. While we have no objection in principle, the first draft shows an amazing lack of knowledge of the food industry." The CWS plea, meanwhile, follows earlier industry calls for all multiples to be covered by the code, thus "ensuring a level playing field". Shannon pointed out that 10 of the 24 retail businesses originally probed by the Competition Commission were co-ops. He told Howells: "We in the CWS have a particular concern in that we are both a retailer and a supplier to other co-op societies, particularly in the case of the Co-op Brand range, which we manage and procure on behalf of the movement as a whole." - See Opinion, page 20. {{NEWS }}