Northern Foods chief executive Pat O'Driscoll has reiterated claims the manufacturer does not wish to participate in the Competition Commission's grocery inquiry - and it looks like it could get its way.

The company had previously gone on record saying it would not get involved.

But news that the Commission had written to suppliers demanding they reveal details of terms to different customers appeared to make it more likely it would have to take part. However, we can reveal Northern Foods is not one of the 40 suppliers to have been sent the letter (The Grocer, 4 November, p6).

O'Driscoll said this week the investigation was "not particularly relevant" to Northern's business. "We are a food manufacturer. We are not interested in landbanks, so we will not be participating at this stage."

However, a spokesman for the Commission said anybody who believed its inquiry to be focused solely on planning was mistaken. "It's not just about planning; it's also about issues in the supply chain and local competition."

Inquiry chairman Peter Freeman said this week the Commission will pursue the 40 suppliers who received the letters if need be. "If suppliers say they won't provide the information we need, we will force the issue. We've indicated we would like their co-operation but we'll use formal powers if necessary."

Freeman also said the Commission's 'emerging thinking' may not be published until after Christmas - later than scheduled.

This week, members of the team went to Northern Ireland to meet trade bodies and companies.