Business minister Ed Davey launched an outspoken attack on supermarkets at the Liberal Democrat Party conference this week.

The MP told the conference in Birmingham that it was thanks to the party that action had finally been taken against supermarkets, which he claimed had long been taking advantage of suppliers.

He also claimed it was down to the Lib Dems that a supermarket adjudicator was being introduced.

"For years, some supermarkets have not played fair," Davey declared. "They have hit farmers by agreeing one price, taking the goods, and then, at the end of the year, demanding some of the money back. It just isn't on."

However, Jane Bevis, director of public affairs at the BRC, said Davey had taken a very different approach when speaking at a later fringe event.

"When the question came up it was a much more qualified version that he gave," she said. "We said clearly that this was a Lib Dem policy they were keen to advance in government, but all the talk about abuse became alleged abuse and his language was toned down.

"Lib Dem ministers have to try to demonstrate that they are not just doing the Conservatives' bidding and this was playing to the ­gallery," Bevis added.