Supermarkets are currently fighting tooth and nail to avoid the interference of an Ombudsman. And they regularly baulk at the heavy-handed approach of the Office of Fair Trading. So there's a delicious irony in the latest proposals of the Gangmasters Licensing Authority (see p4) asking Asda, Tesco et al to police its fresh producer suppliers.

Don't mind if I do, I'm sure, will be the reply.

Oftentimes, poachers make very effective gamekeepers. And there is no doubt the GLA has lacked authority in its dealings with suppliers. It took two years to get a single revocation of a licence, despite a widely held belief that Chinese triads and the East European underworld have an alarming grip on vast swathes of powerless people.

The clout of a supermarket will have even the mafiosi a little bit scared and, by buddying up with the supermarkets, the GLA can at the very least be sure they are given greater access to senior management. When The Grocer went on an inspection last October, some suppliers welcomed the GLA, while others appeared to treat them with contempt. You can be sure everyone would be interested now.

It's good news for the supermarkets too. As the experience of retailers such as Asda, Tesco and Top Shop with Third World labour will attest, stories of supplier labour abuse can embarrass and even hurt retailers, yet for the most part, the retailers are completely unaware of what's going on. So it's a big tick in the PR box to be able to a) check up and b) clamp down on suppliers who can otherwise cause harm.

But the supermarkets are no ordinary poachers, and the prospect of them being given access to commercially sensitive information about their suppliers has the potential for abuse. Supermarket chains don't look a gift horse in the mouth. Or, to put it another way, in a police state, only the police ever win.