Christine Tacon

Groceries Code Adjudicator Christine Tacon has admitted she had begun to fear she may never get the firepower needed to take action against retailers guilty of serious breaches of the code.

This week, the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills published the statutory instruments in parliament that will allow Tacon to impose penalties on large supermarkets of up to 1% of their annual UK turnover.

The move follows an intervention by David Cameron last week, after business secretary Vince Cable accused ministers of sitting on Tacon’s long-standing call to be handed powers to fine.

“I needed to know I had the weaponry I required to be a proper deterrent,” said Tacon, who admitted she feared becoming “toothless” - despite her ability to issue supermarkets with recommendations as to their future conduct, and to ‘name and shame’ for breaches of the Code.

“I was worried that because of the perpetual delays I might not be granted the level of fines which would reflect the potential gains from large retailers of breaches of the code, so I’m very pleased,” Tacon added.

The move by BIS came after the prime minister said he wanted to give Tacon the ability to levy fines and would also consider extending her remit, following calls from MPs for the code to cover dairy processors in light of the current milk price crisis.

However, Tacon expressed doubts about the wisdom of expanding her role any further.

“I was brought in to ensure that retailers were not in breach of the code, and if we’re going to do that it makes sense to start at the top. If it was extended down the ­supply chain I could potentially need parliamentary intervention.”

Cable said the new instrument would give Tacon “the final element in a set of powers.”