Liberal Democrat international development spokesman Andrew George and environment campaign group Friends of the Earth have joined forces to launch a fresh assault against Britain’s supermarket giants.
In particular, they say Tesco has created a near monopoly situation and are pressing for an investigation into the number one retailer’s tightening grip on the grocery market.
Launching a new campaign at the Commons on Thursday, the day before Tesco’s annual general meeting, they claimed suppliers were being constantly compelled to cut their prices, while farmers and other producers were being driven out of business.
George, who has previously championed the cause of smaller retailers, poured scorn on the much-maligned supermarkets code of practice, which was designed to protect suppliers from unfair practices by the big four grocery multiples.
He said many supermarket suppliers across the UK were too scared to reveal what was happening out of fear they would be blacklisted.
Also attending the launch was Andrew Simms, policy director of the New Economics Foundation, which earlier this month called for Tesco to be
forcibly broken up. He said that more than 2,000 small shops closed last year as the big supermarkets made the sector increasingly unviable. There should, he suggested, be a new form of ASBO for supermarket chains - the Anti Social Business Order.
A spokesman for Tesco said: “The supermarket industry is fiercely competitive as the last three competition inquiries have found.”
He added: “Tesco has only grown because more customers have chosen to shop with us and they will only continue to do that if we do a good job for them.”
But the campaign launch comes soon after the All Party Small Shops Group announced it was to hold an inquiry into the grocery retail market. And, privately, some senior retailers have voiced concerns that the OFT may well bow to pressure and initiate another inquiry into the sector.