It is ironic that the government’s limp-wristed response to the recommendations thrown up by the Competition Commission’s groceries inquiry should have been delivered by BERR, the Department for Business Enterprise & Regulatory Reform (‘Hard line shirked by government’, The Grocer, 2 August, p5). BERR is a department that is supposedly Whitehall’s champion of regulatory reform, as well as the other ingredients of its acronym, business and enterprise.

Swift regulatory reform is exactly what is required now in our over-consolidated market, particularly in the form of establishing a pro-active ombudsman who can put the backbone into a new code of practice. Too many phrases and caveats in its disappointing response point to the prospect of more delay and a lack of government commitment. It includes such Sir Humphrey-style nuggets as “the start of an ongoing dialogue” and “want to reflect further” that give a dismal flavour. 

Planning issues are important, but the speedy establishment of an ombudsman is crucial. BERR’s conclusion that “should no voluntary agreement be possible and the matter came back to government, HMG would make any assessment primarily based on what is likely to be in consumers’ best interests”, makes particularly sombre reading. Is not the consumers’ best interest precisely what the commission has spent the past two years investigating, deliberating and finally pronouncing on? The government should accept its recommendations and stop vacillating.