On the same day BIS announced plans to reduce the burden on retailers with its bonfire of red tape, the government department came under major pressure to beef up the power of its proposed Groceries Code Adjudicator a move deeply unpopular with most large food ­retailers.

An influential parliamentary committee called for the powers of the GCA to be extended, which could result in supermarkets being fined for failing to comply with the Grocery Supply Code of Practice.

Under existing proposals, the Adjudicator would have relied on 'naming and shaming' retailers guilty of breaking the code. But, following the intervention by the House of Commons' business select committee, cash penalties could now be introduced.

"We propose that fines be available from the start," said Adrian Bailey, the Labour MP who chaired the committee.

The body also said trade associations should be able to provide evidence to investigations on behalf of suppliers, guaranteeing anonymity for the suppliers involved. Its report was sent to BIS this week.

Meanwhile, the cull on red tape will lead to the government reforming rules on age-restricted products, poisons licences, TV sales reporting and even the sale of bunk beds, as well as simplifying the consumer rights regime.

"Scrapping regulations disused since World War Two may make the scale of action look better, but regulatory reform isn't a numbers game. It's about reducing the impact," said Stephen Robertson, BRC director general.

"The Red Tape Challenge signals the right intent, but more support for growth would come from a comprehensive moratorium on new regulation for the life of this parliament for businesses of all sizes, not just the smallest."

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