Bonfire Night isn’t far away. But we should instead be readying ourselves for a ‘red tape’ bonfire as part of the new UK government’s deregulatory agenda.
Rumours abound that eminently sensible anti-obesity measures – to help address the obesity crisis and save the NHS money – might get ditched. Will environmental regulations be next? Other initiatives, strategies and watchdogs are reputedly under threat. Food business leaders need to stand up and make their voices heard on these, including in defence of the Groceries Code Adjudicator.
Have you responded to the GCA review from the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy yet? If not, please do. The GCA in its near decade of existence has had an overwhelmingly positive impact. Some will argue it’s a shame such a body is needed, but we don’t live in a utopian world. The reality is when influences on the market aren’t equal, we need checks and balances to ensure fairer dealings.
The GCA is one such ‘check and balance’. It has helped reduce the risk of unfair practices between major grocery retailers and their direct suppliers over several years. But there is much more that needs to be done, so retaining it is vital. The independent GCA brings confidentiality, trust and challenge that would be lost if the GCA was merged with the Competition & Markets Authority or even abolished altogether.
The GCA is funded by a levy from the largest retailers – not directly from the taxpayers’ purse – and the cost of running it doesn’t contribute in any meaningful way to food price inflation. So slashing the GCA won’t help the general public and certainly won’t help suppliers, at a time when they are already facing a huge squeeze.
With a flurry of government consultations – amid a cost of living crisis, climate crisis, labour shortages and more – it might be tempting to give the GCA review a miss. But remember that with consultations and calls for evidence, it’s often a case of he/she who shouts loudest gets the prize. It shouldn’t only be the major retailers that respond to the GCA review. Food suppliers, big and small, need to as well. Don’t sit on the sidelines when there’s an opportunity to have influence.
At a time of rapid change, the risk for unfair practices might increase. A properly enforced dairy code of conduct, for example, would have been valuable, but such a code is still missing.
With a GCA review on the menu, let’s at least make the most of the opportunity to respond to that. Protecting the GCA is part of a larger discussion needed about power in our food systems. We need to prevent abuses of power, plus do more to unleash the power that we all have. Take an immediate step today. Don’t let the GCA fall on the bonfire.